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Jonas Salk

Jonas SalkAKA Jonas Edward Salk

Born: 28-Oct-1914
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 23-Jun-1995
Location of death: La Jolla, CA [1]
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, El Camino Memorial Park, San Diego, CA

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Discoverer of the first polio vaccine

American physician and epidemiologist Jonas Salk developed the first effective vaccine against poliomyelitis (polio), a crippling disease that killed more than 3,000 Americans at the epidemic's peak in 1952, and left many thousands more crippled or paralyzed. Salk began his research into polio in 1947, and tested his inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or "killed-virus" polio vaccine in the early 1950s. The vaccine retained enough virulence to cause antibodies to be produced and thus immunize the shot's recipient, but not enough virulence to risk infection. Salk declined to have his vaccine patented, believing that royalties and profits would raise the cost and make the medicine unavailable to the poor. The vaccine was approved for public use on 12 April 1955.

Salk's finding made him a celebrity far beyond scientific circles, and led to complaints from colleagues that he had overrated his own contribution to the effort. His work was also deemed controversial because it had been lavishly funded by the March of Dimes' brilliant advertising campaign, far in excess of more common diseases including cancer and heart disease. All controversy aside, however, the vaccine created by Salk and his team reduced the instance of polio among American children by more than 90%, a decline that accelerated with the introduction of Albert Sabin's "live-virus" oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in the 1960.

In 1959, Salk began planning what became the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, designed by architect Louis Kahn and constructed near San Diego. Opened in 1963, it remains one of the world's most prestigious facilities for research into AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and plant biology. He was born Jonas Salk, and legally added the middle name Edward prior to his first marriage in 1939. His brother, child psychologist Lee Salk, showed in 1960 that the sound of a mother's heartbeat calms a newborn infant. His second wife was the painter Françoise Gilot, who had been Pablo Picasso's lover and mother of two of his children. Her biography of Picasso became a best-seller, after the artist unsuccessfully sued to block its publication.


[1] Green Hospital, La Jolla, CA.

Father: Daniel Salk (b. circa 1890, clothing designer)
Mother: Dora Press Salk (b. circa 1890)
Brother: Herman Salk (veterinarian, b. circa 1918)
Brother: Lee Salk (child psychologist, b. 1926, d. 1992)
Wife: Donna Lindsay (social worker, b. 1917, m. 9-Jun-1939, div. 1968, d. 2002, three sons)
Son: Peter Salk (AIDS researcher, b. 1944)
Son: Darrell Salk (physician and biotech researcher, b. 1947)
Son: Jonathan Salk (psychiatrist, b. 1949)
Wife: Françoise Gilot (artist,
Picasso's lover, b. 26-Nov-1921, m. 29-Jun-1970, until his death)
Daughter: Paloma Picasso (stepdaughter, fashion designer, b. 19-Apr-1949)
Son: Claude Picasso (stepson, b. 15-May-1947)

    High School: Townsend Harris High School, New York City (1929)
    University: BS, City College of New York (1934)
    Medical School: MD, New York University (1939)
    Scholar: Immunology, University of Michigan (1942-47)
    Professor: Bacteriology, University of Pittsburgh (1947-63)
    Administrator: Director of Virus Reseacrh Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh (1947-63)

    Salk Institute for Biological Studies Research Fellow (1963-84)
    Salk Institute for Biological Studies Founder (1959) and Director (1963-75)
    Mount Sinai Hospital Staff physician (1939-42)
    Academy of Achievement (1976)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    amfAR National Council
    Association of American Physicians
    American Public Health Association
    American Epidemiological Society
    American Association of Immunologists
    American Society for Clinical Research
    MacArthur Foundation Director (1979-95)
    March of Dimes
    National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
    Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
    Society of American Bacteriologists
    Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Congressional Gold Medal
    Humanist of the Year 1976
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 1977
    Austrian Ancestry (Paternal)
    Russian Ancestry (Maternal and Paternal)
    Jewish Ancestry (Maternal and Paternal)

Author of books:
Man Unfolding (1972, non-fiction)
The Survival of the Wisest (1973, non-fiction)
How Like an Angel : Biology and the Nature of Man (1975)
World Population and Human Values : A New Reality (1981, non-fiction)
Anatomy of Reality : Merging of Intuition and Reason (1982, non-fiction)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #3426 (63˘, issued 8-Mar-2006)


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