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Oakland: Jonas Salk


Jonas Salk
BORN: 28 October 1914.(90) 
DIED: 23 June 1995.(91)

  • Polio Is Conquered. (26)

  • In many ways, polio was America's last "public" disease. Because everyone shared the danger, each stricken family's private heartache became public knowledge. Local newspapers ran patient lists, noting age, hometown and degree of illness for each case. Photographers lightened the grim columns with pictures of smiling children skipping out the hospital door beside their relieved parents, or bravely vowing that, despite crutches and leg braces, they would soon be back in school. (27)

  • When he saw that the vaccine boosted the number of antibodies in those already with polio, and that in those not infected the vaccine created a level of antibodies necessary to kill the virus, Salk experienced what he would later call "the thrill of my life. Compared to the feeling I got seeing those results under the microscope, everything that followed was anticlimactic." (28)

  • The city fathers wanted the world to know that Salk's work had been done here--and hinted that its success was because of the locale. The vaccine's triumph, Mayor David Lawrence exclaimed, was "a prideful example of Pittsburgh's ever-growing importance as a center of medical care and research." (29)

  • He has brought to his work a restless, sharp and critical mind that has taken no heed of conventional authority unless supported by his own experience. He has brought to his research a fierce singleness of purpose and a devotion toward his aims that never have permitted him to spare himself. (30)


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