Jonas Salk, the medical researcher who developed the first safe and effective polio vaccine in the early 1950s, was born in New York City on this day in 1914. His scientific work on the creation of the polio vaccine was important not only because it addressed a great clinical need, but also because it applied a previously unused technique—killed virus in a vaccine. What is more, because it occurred at a time of rapid progress in mass communications (TV was just becoming commmonplace), the news of the scientific developments spread nearly instantly and Dr. Salk attained great celebrity.
As a young child I remember the stir about the vaccine, discussions of the live and dead virus, eggs, polio, iron lungs, swimming pool water, and on and on. And, of course, I remember getting vaccinated. Before the vaccine, I have a vague sense that maybe some child at the edges of my peer group may have gotten polio and disappeared into the shadows. But the rest of us stood in lines at the armory. Maybe a second or third dose was in the form of a sugar cube?
Anyway, hats off too Dr. Salk and the many others who have worked so diligently to develop preventive vaccines and to immunize populations.