Jonas Salk


1914-1995 (80 years old)

United States

Year of great discovery/work

Salk began his research on polio in 1947 and successfully tested his inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) or “killed” polio vaccine in the early 1950s. In fewer than 35 days in the spring of 1954, an unprecedented 1.8 million people, including hundreds of thousands of school-aged children, took part in a clinical trial of Salk’s polio vaccine. It was the largest public health experiment in the U.S. to date and was funded by millions of dollars in charitable donations. These donations were in the form of dimes sent to the White House to support polio research of vaccine development. This campaign benefitted an organization that was later named the March of Dimes. Salk never patented his polio vaccine, and never made any money from its creation, believing that royalties and profits would raise the cost and make the vaccine unavailable to the poor.

Did you know?
Salk attended a public high school for gifted students. He started college when he was only 15 years old.