JONAS SALK: Virologist

Many scientists were racing to make a polio vaccine in the '50s--but he got there first

How many cases make an epidemic? Survivors of the great polio plagues of the 1940s and '50s will never believe that in the U.S. the average toll in those years was "only" 1 victim out of every 5,000 people. Was that really all it took to scare the nation out of its wits, sending families scurrying in all directions--to the mountains, to the desert, to Europe--in vain hope of sanctuary.

Perhaps polio's other name, infantile paralysis, had something to do with it. Images of babies in wheelchairs and tots on crutches tend to skew one's perception. And just in case...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!