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Jonas E. Salk

(1914 - 1995)

Drs. Jonas E. Salk and Albert B. Sabin were the pioneers and researchers who discovered the vaccine and serum to combat polio, a crippling and killing disease that affected millions of people throughout the world annually.

Salk was the oldest of three sons born to Dora and Daniel B. Salk in New York City on October 28, 1914. An exceptional student, he graduated from Townsend Harris High School, the school for the talented and gifted, and worked his way through City College. He received his medical degree from the College of Medicine at New York University in June 1939. In 1942, he went to the University of Michigan, where he developed an influenza vaccine to destroy the polio viruses.

Salk worked to develop vaccines that killed each of the three types of polio viruses. After injecting small groups of people, Salk announced in October 1953 that he had injected 600 people with the vaccine. This experimental group would determine the safety of the new vaccine. The next month, the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis announced it was making plans for large scale testing of Salk's vaccine.

During the next year more than a million children received three injections for the three types of viruses. Salk also injected himself, his wife and children. The testing proved that this was the first answer in combating polio. The new vaccine, however, had one drawback: booster injections had to be given periodically.

Dr. Jonas Salk died on June 23, 1995.

Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.