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Jonas Salk

Francis Collins once said ” I think history would say that medical research has, throughout many changes of parties, remained as one of the shining lights of bipartisan agreement, that people are concerned about health for themselves, for their families, for their constituents. ” The twentieth century was a time of great scientific advancements in medicine, especially those advancements of the mid-twentieth century. New surgical procedures and vaccines were being discovered which resulted in people having the ability to live longer than ever before.

Doctors and scientist were trying to develop new creative ways of preserving the lives of their family, friends, and the population around them. But, with so many unknown diseases going around, that were killing great masses of people it was important for scientist to take action fast. Many great scientist were born from this century, and they have become role models for their predecessors. Jonas Salk earned his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine in 1939, and from there he immediately went on to do great things.

Salk was the most influential person in the world of science during the mid-twentieth entury because he changed the way people attempt to cure diseases especially with his development for the cure of polio. The polio disease effected many families, so it was very important when Salk came up with the vaccine for the damaging disease. In order to take on this large task he needed the Fuhs 2 correct education. Developing a vaccine can be difficult, so Salk’s education was extremely helpful through the entire process. A friend of Salk, Thomas Francis, Jr. , taught him the methodology of developing a vaccine.

Salk was first introduced to vaccinolgy when he worked n Thomas Francis’ lab at the University of Michigan where he helped develop the first successful vaccine for the influenza disease. With this information Salk then had the skills he needed to develop the vaccine for polio. The development of the vaccine for the awful virus of polio began when Salk received a job as director of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “[. . . ] he began to develop the techniques that would lead to a vaccine to wipe out the most frightening scourge of the time: paralytic poliomyelitis” (About Jonas Salk).

He believed that if he injected some of the polio virus that was already “dead” back into a person, this would result in the person becoming immune to the virus if a live version of the virus ever tried to enter the body. The immune system would recognize the “intruder” and know to fight it off because it had been exposed to that same disease before. The techniques that he used to attempt at curing this disease were questionable because at the time is was believed that only a live version of the virus could be used in the vaccine, so he had to first do trials on himself, and his family.

The vaccine was a success and all of the family had developed anti-polio antibodies and there were no negative side effects that they knew of. This discovery was crucial because of the severity of the polio disease at the time, “In 1952–an epidemic year for polio–there were 58,000 new cases reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 died from the disease” (Salk announces polio vaccine). This was all the proof he needed to start administering the virus to children ages six to nine as a national testing in 1955. People were not as worried about the harm that this vaccine could do because the disease was

Fuhs 3 killing off an alarming number of people; the risk had to be taken. This was a triumph for Salk, the entire world of medicine, and the whole US population because kids all across the country were being saved from this revolutionary vaccine. Although the vaccine was a hit, there was soon a replacement, “Salk’s vaccine was soon beat out and replaced by Albert Sabin’s vaccine that could be taken orally. There were pros and cons to each, but the oral vaccination won out” (Oshinsky, 182).

The difference between the oral vaccine and the vaccine Salk developed is he oral vaccine contains live versions of the bacteria, where as in Salk’s the virus was dead. This would be valued later on, but the oral attempt was easier at the time. The education Salk received was critical to his ability to help save the lives of numerous people all over the United States. Salk’s different way of developing vaccines was used for many other diseases, and the fame from his discovery allowed him to start the Salk Institute where he continued research on other virus’.

Although he did use some information from other researchers, the idea itself elonged to Salk and he received the majority of the credit. They key to his vaccine was, “From the time he was a medical student he questioned the dogma that immunity against a virus disease could only be induced by a living virus” (The Legacy of Jonas Salk). This idea itself is what made a lasting impression on the world of medicine, and is still used today; viruses be changed into a noninfectious form or “dead” form, and still provide immunity against a virus. Vaccines made from noninfectious materials would not have been possible without the discoveries of Jonas Salk.

After the success of Salk with the polio disease he decided to start The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The institute was dedicated to, ” [. . . ] the advancement and dissemination of knowledge relevant to the health and well-being of man by research, advanced instruction, and training [. . . ]” (The Legacy of Jonas Salk). The institute was created so that Salk could continue Fuhs 4 to develop vaccines and contribute his work to the medical world, but on a larger scale. To create the institute he received a twentieth million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation and support from the March of Dimes.

After being discovered, many medical advances were reached, but the new project Salk was working on was a cure for AIDS. In 1987 he proposed shared an idea about preventing AIDS, ” He developed the idea of a therapeutic inactivated vaccine to control the acquired immune deficiency syndrome in people who already have the HIV virus” (Jacobs, 424). He continued to work on this vaccine as both a therapeutic vaccine and as a preventive vaccine for people who had not yet been exposed to the virus, until he died in 1995. Although Salk never got to finish developing the vaccine for AIDS, his partners in the Salk

Institute helped finish the vaccine and it is still being tested. Something that makes Salk stand out throughout all of the important scientists of his time is that even after he made one huge discovery, he did not become full of himself and accept that as his one big thing that he did. He worked his hardest and continued to give all that he could to the world of science. The discoveries that Salk made allowed for other scientist to made numerous medical advances. Salk was not the only scientist that made a difference during his time, but he was by far the most important and influential. Somebody like Drs.

Enders, Weller and Robbins at Harvard who were awarded the Nobel Prize for developing the techniques that Salk used to grow the polio virus could be looked at as some of the most influential people of Salk’s time. They were a huge part of the development, but still, the thing that made Salk stand out was his idea that a noninfectious version of the polio virus could be injected into a person and as a result they would be immune to the disease. This idea specifically is what went on to influence so many other scientists when studying vaccinology, and when developing vaccines that we use today.

Watson Fuhs 5 and Crick had a crucial scientific discovery when they developed a model of the structure of DNA, and revealed that it was a double helix. Yes, their discovery was important, but that discovery was not a big issue at the time, and if they discovered it a few years later, it would not have been too big of a deal. Polio was having a direct effect on mass amounts of people worldwide, “New polio cases dropped from nearly 2 million to under 6,000 in 1957, the first year after the vaccine was widely available” (Jonas Salk, MD).

Salk had the perfect timing for his evelopment of the vaccine and became a hero for the US population especially. With the vaccine he saved important people like Franklin D. Roosevelt who was the president at the time, so everyone praised Salk for his work. The vaccine made such a large impression after such a short amount as well, “[. . . ] by 1962, the number of cases of polio had dropped to 910” (People and Discoveries). Within seven years, the vaccine developed by Salk almost completely eliminated a disease that was an epidemic less than ten years earlier. Salk’s single invention reated an enormous amount of success in a very small window of time.

With his good timing, and revolutionary idea, Salk became the most important scientist of his time. The people being effected with this disease, whether directly by having the disease, or indirectly by knowing someone with the disease, were scared and had no clue what to do about the damage polio was making. With the work of many scientists coming together and discovering new things, Salk was able to use the resources he had and his own ideas to develop something that would be used in generations to come.

Having this ability to preserve the lives of so many people is what made Salk a hero to the population in a time where they needed help. He put all his efforts into providing the medical world with new information, whether it was when he developed the polio vaccine, when he worked on a vaccine of AIDS, or when he started his Fuhs 6 institute to further research the problems with disease and virus’. He was an icon for the world of science because he opened new doors for so many other discoveries, and this is what made him the most influential scientist of the mid-20th century.

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