One of our very first episodes featured a rare interview with Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the Polio vaccine at a time of tremendous panic. Today, as scientists around the world intensify efforts to come up with a vaccine for Covid-19, we thought you might find hope and inspiration in his story. (The episode originally posted 9/21/2015.):
Before Jonas Salk developed the Polio vaccine, thousands of children died every year or were left paralyzed by the virus (adults too). In 1952 alone, there were 58,000 cases in the United States. When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk was hailed as a miracle worker. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine. He had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible. The interview with Dr. Salk featured in this episode was recorded in 1991. In it, Salk talks about being the child of uneducated immigrants, and carving his own path to medical school and eventually virology -- a specialty that didn't exist when he began as a researcher. He discusses the anti-semitic quotas he had to overcome, as well as the doubt and scorn of many of his peers. But he also describes the transformation and relief his polio vaccine brought to the world.