Dr. Jonas Salk

Our ability to survive and thrive in modern times is largely due to our creativity in the field of medicine. This is fueled by the work of dedicated professionals and people who can only be described as geniuses who work to make sure that the health of everyday people is protected as much as possible. One such man is Dr. Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine. This articles looks into some of the key aspects of his life.

  • Humble Beginnings
  • Salk’s parents were Polish Jews who had very little education. They fled that country for America where Jonas was born in 1914 in the city of New York. He was the oldest of three boys and grew up steeped in his parents culture despite being in a new land. His ability was obvious from a young age and he was enrolled in a high school that specifically catered to students who showed exceptional promise. He more than earned his place by applying himself heartily to whatever he was assigned and more. This paid off and he enrolled eventually int City College where he studied Chemistry.

  • Medical School
  • His original plan was to study law but he followed his mothers advice and did medical school instead. At this point he became fascinated, not with the prospect of practicing medicine but with the process of research. He tailored his research to primarily deal with bacteriology. By following his passion he explored opportunities to work with Influenza studies and there made his first breakthroughs with immunization.

  • After Graduation
  • Salk’s residency took place at Mt. Sinai hospital. He stood out again as a talented young doctor but on completion he found his heritage often worked against him. Many organizations would only permit a certain number of Jewish permanent staff and their quotas were almost always full. Undaunted, he set up his own laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. It was there that he got his first opportunity to study polio up close. He immediately recognized the potential for using his talents to the maximum benefit of mankind. Many other researchers at the time worked under misconceptions of the virus leading them to conduct dangerous trials in which some children perished. Salk pioneered the first working vaccine so that many lives were saved.

While his work was mostly done far from the limelight, his name is still remembered for the impact he made at a time when it was most needed.