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Jonas Salk M.D.
Physician and Research Scientist

1914 - 1995

It is courage based on confidence, not daring,
  and it is confidence based on experience.

                                                             —Jonas Salk

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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  Related Figures in Lucidcafé's Library

  Books About Jonas Salk

  • Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio - Author: Jeffrey Kluger

    Kluger, coauthor of the bestselling book that was the basis for the movie Apollo 13, tells how polio was beaten 50 years ago in one of the triumphs of modern medicine. The narrative naturally centers on Jonas Salk, whose lab developed the first polio vaccine.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Splendid Solution"

  • Jonas Salk - Author: Victoria Sherrow

    An inspiring story of a hero of medical research. Follows Salk through his schooling and into the laboratory. The final section covers the Salk Institute's recent work in AIDS and cancer research.

    CLICK HERE to purchase this Hardcover edition of "Jonas Salk"

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - October 1995