When I was in high school, we read I Can Jump Puddles (1955 ) – an autobiography by Alan Marshall. He contracted polio in 1908 at the age of 6. At the time, I didn’t really notice how recent the threat of polio was.
Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned.
Soon after Dr Jonas Salk’s vaccine was licensed in 1955, children’s vaccination campaigns were launched. In the U.S, following a mass immunization campaign promoted by the March of Dimes, the annual number of polio cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,600 by 1957. By 1961 only 161 cases were recorded in the United States.
Until the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered one of the most frightening public health problems in the world:
Jonas Salk made scientists and journalists alike go goofy.
As one of the only living scientists whose face was known the world over, Salk, in the public’s eye, had a superstar aura.
Airplane pilots would announce that he was on board and passengers would burst into applause. Hotels routinely would upgrade him into their penthouse suites.
A meal at a restaurant inevitably meant an interruption from an admirer, and scientists approached him with drop-jawed wonder as though some of the stardust might rub off