Jonas Salk, best known for his creation of the polio vaccine, also created the Salk vaccine. Salk has been honored and awarded for his discovery of a “killed virus” vaccine that would rid the world of the terrible illness that was polio. Salk also dedicated years of research to finding an AIDS vaccine.
1. No Patent
Salk believed that his discovery of the polio vaccine was for the benefit of anyone and everyone who wanted it, that he did not seek to patent his discover. He was quoted as saying (when answering the question of whether or not he would patent the vaccine), “There is no patent. Could you patent the Sun?”
Salk was a good student and first chose to go to medical school. While there, he was given an opportunity to dabble in biochemistry, but chose to become a doctor as he believed that becoming a doctor would enable him to, as he put it, “be of some help to human kind.”
3. Life Changing Lectures
While attending his medical classes at the NYU School of Medicine, Salk heard two lectures that would change his course of study. The lectures were on immunization and how, in order to kill a virus, the body must be introduced to the virus. Salk was intrigued because he thought it was contrary to reason that in order to prevent an illness, you must first be introduced to it. This curiosity was what sparked Salk’s interest in the study of biochemistry.
4. A Request Fulfilled
Salk worked closely with the head of epidemiology at NYU and began working on the creation of an influenza vaccination, at the request of the United States Army.
5. Study of Viruses
After graduating from NYU, Salk placed more of his emphasis on the study of viruses. He worked at a few different medical facilities, constantly keeping his eye on the goal of developing a polio vaccine, before making his biggest discovery.
6. Developing, Testing and Refining
Salk spent the 1950’s developing, testing and refining the polio vaccine. He did this by using dead polio virus cells that he then introduced (through injection) into the body. He tested the vaccine on himself, his family, and went through a large number of test subjects before he was cleared to perform vaccinations on the general public. In 1955 he gave his first series of injections to elementary school children.
7. Salk Institute for Biological Studies
About ten years later, Salk decided to establish the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, where the focus was on molecular biology and genetics.
8. The Immune Response Corporation
Salk was the co-founder of The Immune Response Corporation whose purpose was to search for an AIDS vaccine. He made some progress towards his goal, in the form of patenting one process, before he died at age 80.
9. Testing The Polio Vaccine
During the national testing of the polio vaccine, some of the first double-blind, placebo-controlled tests were performed. Such testing methods have since become standard. These testing methods proved that the vaccine was preventing the illness, not the power of suggestion or some other phenomena. Once the scientific evidence supported that the vaccine was in fact safe and effective, nation-wide vaccinations began.
10. Honors and Awards
Stalk was awarded with many different honors. Among others, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (from President Jimmy Carter), the California and Polio Halls of Fame and he has had several schools named for him.
Learn more with these Jonas Salk websites.