Jonas (Edward) Salk was born on October 28, 1914 in New York City. He is best known for developing the first successful vaccine for polio. He also made significant contributions to our understanding of influenza and other infectious diseases.
Salk was the oldest son of a garment industry worker. He helped pay for his education by working after school, and by earning academic scholarships. Salk graduated from New York University School of Medicine in 1938. In 1942, he went to the University of Michigan on a research fellowship and soon advanced to the position of assistant professor of epidemiology (the study of the causes and control of epidemics).
Salk began teaching at the University of Pittsburgh in 1947 where he continued his research. In 1953 he announced the development of a trial vaccine for Polio (poliomyelitis). Salk's vaccine was composed of "killed" polio virus, which retained the ability to immunize without the risk of infecting the patient. Mass trials held in 1953 on 1,830,000 children proved the vaccine was safe and effective. He received many honors, including a Congressional gold medal for his "great achievement in the field of medicine."
Salk established the Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla (pronounced "la hoya") California in 1963. He left his position at University of Pittsburgh in 1964 to dedicate full-time to his institute, and the study of infectious diseases. He was director of the Salk Institute until his death on June 23, 1995. He was 80 years old.
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