American Hero, Scientific Outcast
This chapter presents the life and work of Jonas Salk, starting with his co-development of the first influenza vaccine, but focusing on the polio vaccine. This physician-scientist made and initially tested a killed polio virus vaccine in secret while challenging a firmly held scientific belief that only a live virus vaccine could provide lifetime immunity. When his vaccine proved effective in preventing this crippling disease, he accomplished one of the most important feats in medical history. Despite public acclaim, he was rebuked by the scientific community, accused of crossing the line of acceptable academic behavior. Within the framework of his life, several broader issues of scientific research are considered: the inherent vicissitudes, the politics of discovery, and the personal cost. It is argued that dreamers need brilliance and/or creativity, fortitude, passion, and self-confidence. Salk’s odyssey epitomizes the tribulations and gratifications of the scientific visionary.
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