361. Jonas Salk: The Man who Cured the World

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During the early part of the 20th Century, polio was considered one of the greatest health threats in the United States of America. Polio was a vicious disease that took its victim's lives, or left them with major disabilities. In 1952, the U.S. suffered one of its harshest epidemics of polio in its history. More than 58,000 cases of polio were reported that year, and 3,145 people lost their lives. Additionally, more than 21,000 people suffered some form of paralysis that ranged from mild paralysis to extreme cases where people became disabled. Dr. Jonas Salk is responsible for ending that plague.

Born in New York City on October 28, 1914, Jonas Salk grew up in modest surroundings. His parents were not wealthy, but they were able to put food on the table, and maintain a roof over their children's head. Salk demonstrated great academic success from childhood. By the age of 13, he was enrolled into a school for gifted children. He was considered a perfectionist by his peers, and succeeded academically in a very competitive environment. In college, Salk opted to go into medical school even though his mother wanted him to become an attorney. After graduating from medical school, Salk began his research on polio, which was considered a scourge of western society.

Polio had baffled medical science since its discovery in the mid-19th Century. When Salk turned his attention to the disease, there was little hope that anyone could find an adequate cure. Salk developed his vaccine in the early 1950s, and in April of 1955, his accomplishment was heralded in newspapers across the country. Salk became a national hero. His vaccine effectively ended the polio epidemic in the United States and many countries around the world.

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