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Dates That Matter

February 23, 1954

Dr. Jonas Salk develops a vaccine for polio.

 Why does it matter?

Polio (technically called poliomyelitis) is a disease developed in childhood that attacks the central nervous system and causes paralysis. Children afflicted with polio might experience mild paralysis and have trouble walking. More seriously affected children suffered paralysis of the chest muscles and victims were left unable to breathe on their own. The only technology available to help these children was the "iron lung," a huge metal tube that victims might spend the rest of their lives in. The possibility of polio terrified young parents in the early part of the twentieth century.

It is believed that President Franklin Roosevelt had contracted polio which left him unable to walk normally.

Jonas Salk was the first to develop an effective vaccine against polio, and that vaccine was further improved by Albert Sabin. Today, polio is rare, thanks to widespread early vaccination of children.

For more information...

Polio Vaccine
A good overview of the polio vaccine, how it works, and why it's important.

Salk Institute--About Salk
The Salk Institute's biography of Jonas Salk. Be sure and follow the link to the attached timeline of Salk's discovery of the polio vaccine.

Jonas Salk Biography
A more comprehensive biography of Jonas Salk with a photo gallery and a transcript of an interview with Salk.

Iron Lung
A well designed site showing the development of the artificial respirator, or "iron lung" that saved lives of those afflicted with polio.