A remembrance in La Jolla, California, presents, “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” The memorial commemorates the great virologist Jonas Salk (Salk.edu). Although many recognize Salk as the man who effectuated the eradication of polio, he also contributed to a vast amount of medical research. A comprehensive study of Jonas Salk includes his young life, early career, work with poliomyelitis, and later career and life.
Daniel and Dora Press Salk became the parents of Jonas Salk on October 28, 1914. Daniel, a women’s garment designer, provided his new family with a small apartment in Manhattan (Bankston 11). As the eldest Salk received his mother’s imperishable attention. When Salk was two, the first great polio infection in the United States commenced; the concentration was most severe in New York City, home of the Salks (Hargrove 8-9). No mother was more cautious than Dora Salk. While both parents were relatively uneducated, they highly valued education. Mrs. Salk kept Jonas inside not only to protect him from feared diseases, but also to satisfy his curiosity and promote learning. She supplied Salk with literature and logical problems throughout his childhood (Barter 16-18).
Salk entered free, yet prestigious Townsend Harris High School at the age of
twelve and then graduated three years later (Bankston 13-14). He refused his mother’s preference of rabbinical school and decided to major in pre-law at the City College of New York to become a congressman (Kluger 27). After enjoying himself in science classes, he decided to switch to pre-med and become a researcher (Barter 20). He graduated in 1934 and entered the New York University School of Medicine (Bankston 15). In 1935 Salk took a year off to work with his biochemistry professor, Dr. Cannan. During his work he discovered a method of obtaining pure samples of bacteria (Bankston 20; Kluger 34).
Salk returned to school a year later and graduated in 1939. He also married to Donna Lindsay, a brilliant psychology major, on June 9, 1939. Lindsay’s father required Salk to adopt his medical title and a middle name for the wedding invitations. With his new bride by his side and a medical degree in his hand, Dr. Jonas Edward Salk was ready to tackle the medical epidemics of the world (Oshinsky 99).
In 1940 Salk began a two year internship at an extremely competitive hospital, Mount Sinai. He was one of only twelve accepted applicants. Salk excelled and was even elected staff president of the interns (Barter 26; Kluger 47). Seeking research, Salk found his solution in influenza. With war approaching and soldiers in close living quarters, many feared influenza would be detrimental to the American effort. Though Salk had considered joining the army, Thomas Francis, a renowned microbiologist, invited him to help the effort by working on an influenza vaccine (Bankston 26; Oshinsky 101). Salk and Francis determined...