Profile of the Day: Jonas Salk

Posted October 28, 2020 by Amanda | No Comment

Today marks the 106th birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the first successful polio vaccine.

Image: Jonas Salk / San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

Jonas Edward Salk was born on October 28, 1914 in New York City to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. An intellectually gifted child, Salk was encouraged by his parents to pursue his education. He earned his degree in medicine from New York University, where he determined he did not want to practice medicine, but pursue medical research.

In 1947, Salk joined the fight against polio while at the University of Pittsburgh. In a project funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Salk set out to determine the number of distinct types of polio viruses. Polio was considered one of the most frightening public health problems of the postwar era, with the number of victims increasing each year. The disease claimed many lives and left thousands of others with mild to disabling paralysis. The majority of the victims were children. By 1951, Salk had determined there were three distinct types of polio virus and developed a vaccine against the disease.

When news of the vaccine’s success was made public in 1955, Salk was proclaimed a national hero. Within the first few years, the vaccine had a significant impact on the number of new cases reported. Thanks to Salk’s vaccine, thousands of cases of the crippling illness have been prevented and countless lives have been saved.

Explore Jonas Salk’s family tree on Geni.

View Jonas Salk’s Geni Profile

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

See all posts by