Jonas Salk



Jonas Salk


From the beginning of mankind, man has looked for cures of illness. Jonas
Salk found a cure for one of the worst illnesses in the history of man, polio.
Jonas Salk\'s polio vaccine was a great discovery of his time, and it is still
being used today to eradicate polio worldwide. Dr. Salk is also known for other
medical discoveries. He was a quiet man who lived a rough childhood. He was
not looking for fame, instead, it found him. During the time before the vaccine,
many people, mostly parents with young children, were very scared. Dr. Salk\'s
vaccine was a great relief to everyone. Yet, today polio is still affecting
people, even after receiving the vaccine. Just as polio is still around today,
so is the flu virus. Dr. Salk did invent a flu vaccine to help in keeping the
flu virus at a low. At this time, Jonas Salk is working on a vaccine for the
most feared disease of today, AIDS.
Jonas Edward Salk was born to Polish-Jewish immigrants, Daniel B. and
Dora Salk, on October 28, 1914. Dr. Salk was born in upper Manhattan, but then
moved to the Bronx where he went to school. "His first spoken words were, \'Dirt,
dirt,\' instead of the conventional, uninspired \'No, no\' or \'Momma.\' He was a
responsive child." Dr. Salk was "raised on the verge of poverty." Although
his family was poor, he did do exceptionally well in all the levels of education.
He graduated from Townsend Harris High School in 1929 and then went on to the
College of the City of New York where he received his B.S. in 1934. He finally
earned his M.D. degree in June of 1939 from the New York University College of
Medicine. Jonas Salk was "a somewhat withdrawn and indistinct figure" but was
always reading whatever he could lay his hands on. Dr. Salk went on to intern
for two years at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He then moved on to the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as a research professor in the Department of
Epidemology. It was here that he found a vaccine for influenza, commonly called
the flu, while he worked with Dr. Thomas Francis Jr. In 1947, when the
University of Pittsburgh expanded, he went to work there with a part in his
contract that said he could go back to Ann Arbor if things didn\'t work out, no
questions asked. At this school he became what he is known as today, a
bacteriologist. It was here that he developed the polio vaccination. Dr. Salk
then left his field of endeavor because of all the fame and ridicule from his
colleagues. In 1963, Jonas Salk set up the Salk Institute for Biological
Studies in La Jolla, California. This facility was made possible through funds
from the March of Dimes. At this time, he is eighty years old and working on a
cure for AIDS.
"Poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, is an acute viral infection."
Polio is the "inflammation of the gray anterior matter of the spinal cord." The
inflammation would destroy the nerve cells. As a result of the lost nerve cells,
the muscles that those nerve cells controlled would no longer be functional.
Polio has long been a disease in this world. Mummies with one leg
shorter than the other, and a memorial that shows a priest with one leg withered
are two examples of ancient artifacts possibly proving the polio virus\'s
existence as far back as 1500 B.C. The first written record of an outbreak of
polio is in 1835. It occurred in Workshop, England with the record stating,
"Four remarkable cases of suddenly induced paralysis, occurring in children..."
Nevertheless, it was not until 1916 that the United States became well aware of
the polio dilemma. In that year, there were 27,363 cases of polio with 7,179
resulting in death. Unfortunately, the problem didn\'t go away; in New York City
there were 9,023 cases with 2,448 deaths. "The epidemics peaked in the United
States from 1942 to 1943,...In 1950, there were more than 33,000 United States
cases." The state of Florida was one of the many states that was hit hard with
polio. The director of the Florida Department of Public Health, Dr. Wilson
Sowder, said, "I have not seen a communicable disease that has disrupted a
community...as this has." The disease "was communicable as an intestinal virus
that would spread from the stomach to the nervous system." It was "transmitted
in fecal matter or in secretions of the nose and throat, the virus enters its
victim by