One of the most important medical advances in human history!
I was still young when polio was a scourge of the world, and I well remember being terrified of getting the disease and having to spend my life in an iron lung, or walking with braces. The disease peaked in the summer, and we were always told to avoid public swimming pools, where you were supposed to be especially susceptible to the virus.
Then, Jonas Salk (1914-1995), after years of field trials, announced a successful killed-virus vaccine in 1955, when I was five. I got inoculated, as did everyone else, and within a few years polio was no longer a fearsome scourge of Americans (it took longer to tackle the rest of the world). As Wikipedia reports (and they have a nice article on Salk)
By 1962, polio had become almost extinct [in the U.S.], with only 910 cases reported that year—down from 37,476 in 1954.
The Guardian describes the field trials:
In 1954, over 300,000…
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