Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk Jonas Salk (1914-1995) Jonas Salk was the first born of Daniel B. Salk and Dora Press. He was born in New York, New York on October 28, 1914. He died in La Jolla, California on June 23, 1995. Salk attended Townsend Harris High School for the gifted and received his B.A. from College of the City of New York in 1934.

He received his M.D. from New York University in 1930 and interned at Mount Sinai Hospital, where he studied immunology. He was recognized as an able scientist by his teachers. Also, during World War 2, he was a participant in the armys effort to develop an effective vaccine for influenza. Salk was restless and wanted freedom from the projects of his senior colleagues so he could try out his own ideas.

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He accepted a position at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. And at that time, had no record of a basic search in medicine. Salk got the space he needed and quickly put together a team of laboratory workers to help him study infectious diseases. Salks success in developing a vaccine for polio depended on discoveries of many other researchers in immunology and virology. Originally polio could only be grown in live monkeys. Attempts in the 1930s to use a vaccine prepared from the killed extracts of infected monkey brains resulted in deaths of several children.

It was also thought that polio only grew in nerve tissues but infected humans produced large amounts of viruses in their feces, suggesting it also grew in intestines. IT was later found that polio consists of at least 3 different types of viruses. By 1954, all the difficulties were resolved. Salk then began the crucial human experiments to confirm the results taken on monkeys. He and his workers immunized themselves and their families and began field testing the vaccine.

The first 7 million doses of the vaccine were given in 1955. Salk then gave a nationwide program from 1956 through 1958. Almost immediately after this program of immunization then United States was polio-free. Salks killed virus vaccine required 4 injections, one for each type plus a booster. Although the live vaccine, made by Albert Sabin, took fewer doses, it was used more frequently in the following years.

Polio had already been defeated and in the publics mind, Salk had become a national hero. Although nominated, he was never named a Nobel laureate, but among his honors were Presidential Citation in 1955, a Congressional Gold Medal in 1955, the Albert Lasker Award in 1956, the Mellon Institute Award in 1969, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. He received the Robert Koch Medal from Germany, while France named him Chevalier de la Legion dHonneur. His greatest reward was the knowledge of being instrumental in the eradication of a terrible disease. And as Salk once said, Nothing happens quite by chance.

Its a question of accretion of information and experience.


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