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Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk is a medical researcher, virologist and developer of the first successful polio vaccine. Salk performed research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School where he developed the vaccine.

Salk was born in New York and attended the Townsend Harris High School, a public school for intellectually gifted students whose families could not afford to send them to top private schools. He received his undergraduate degree from City College of New York and continued graduate studies at the New York University School of Medicine where he decided to pursue laboratory work and research. After a two-month elective working under Dr. Thomas Francis at the University of Michigan, Salk became fascinated with virology and pursued the field, later settling down at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine in 1947.

Salk began researching flu vaccines and made progress though he was faced with some controversy over the testing methods of his vaccines. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis reached out to him with a position on their polio project, which Salk accepted. Polio was the most feared epidemic at the time and gained popularity with Franklin D. Roosevelt's diagnosis of the illness. Salk spent two years fashioning a vaccine by using traces of the dead virus, which proved effective on both animals and people. The nation celebrated Salk's victory and the refusal to patent the vaccine. He became a hero and many countries eagerly accepted his vaccine.

Salk's immediate fame caught him off guard and he retreated to research again, this time working to develop a cure for AIDS. He passed away in the midst of his research in 1995, and the project was discontinued in 2007. Salk is still honored today with October 24th being World Polio Day, and groups like the U.S. Postal Service and the California Hall of Fame recognizing his achievements. 

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Cindy Fernandez
Ansaldo STS USA

At the age of 24, I had an engineering job, owned a house and started a radio show here.