Polio Vaccine

Appearing out of nowhere in the late 1900s, polio terrified American communities in the early 20th century. 1 in 200 infections led to irreversible paralysis. Of those, 5-10% died from breathing paralysis. Iron lungs that breathed for polio sufferers also trapped them. The virus paralyzed President Roosevelt.

No sooner did the virus appear than entire families faced quarantine. If the child died then the families could not leaving the house to attend the funeral.

To promote the rapid dissemination of the vaccine Salk purposefully refused to patent his polio vaccine. Forbes estimated Salk forfeited about $7 billion dollars, adjusted for inflation through 2012.

Through research grants funding his lab Salk lived a comfortable life.

Salk did not win a Nobel Prize as his vaccine was not a core scientific breakthrough but, rather, a combination of prior work by others.