Polio was a scourge that terrified generations of people throughout the United States and the rest of the world until Jonas Salk’s vaccine provided...

Polio was a scourge that terrified generations of people throughout the United States and the rest of the world until Jonas Salk’s vaccine provided the first effective defense against it. In Jonas Salk: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2015), Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs chronicles the medical researcher whose success in developing a successful polio vaccine in the 1950s made him an international celebrity. Born to immigrant parents, Salk studied hard to graduate for college and earn his medical degree. His interest in helping all of humanity led Salk to pass on a career as a clinician in favor of one as a researcher in the burgeoning field of virology. After work during World War II on the first successful influenza vaccine Salk moved to Pittsburgh, where he soon found himself involved in a coordinated effort to defeat the disease. Salk’s vaccine became the first to achieve this. Yet as Jacobs demonstrates, the fame Salk won for his achievement came at a price. Though lionized the world over he found himself engaged in a lifelong campaign to prove the superiority of his vaccine, while his efforts to develop vaccines against other diseases never achieved the same degree of success.

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