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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Google doodle on Jonas Edward Salk's 100th birthday ....

I am one impressed by Google doodles ~ and post on them too… today saw one and tried keeping away ….in the closing hours of the day – seeing the doodle again – it is celebrating 100th birth day of a person – it shows a group of celebrating children and parents. A child with balloons, one cycling, another one running with a pet –two other children are seen holding up a banner that reads, "Thank you Dr. Salk." Strangely,  Google's logo isn't seen in the doodle.

With curiosity getting better of me, I click the doodle and is led to details and the reasoning of this doodle is very impressive.  It is Jonas Edward Salk, the US-based medical researcher who was born in New York on October 28, 1914 (passed away in June 1995).  He was born in New York City to Jewish parents. Although they had little formal education, his parents were determined to see their children succeed. While attending New York University School of Medicine, Salk stood out from his peers, not just because of his academic prowess, but because he went into medical research instead of becoming a practicing physician and Jonas Salk is the man who created the world's first polio vaccine.

Until 1957, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem.  Annual epidemics were increasingly devastating. The 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history.  In 1947, Salk accepted an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 1948, he undertook a project funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to determine the number of different types of polio virus. Salk saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and, together with the skilled research team he assembled, devoted himself to this work for the next seven years. The field trial set up to test the Salk vaccine was, according to O'Neill, "the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers." Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial.  When news of the vaccine's success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker" and the day almost became a national holiday.

His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When asked who owned the patent to it, Salk said "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? The vaccine is calculated to be worth $7 billion had it been patented. Salk's last years were spent searching for a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

An interesting article in - Slate.com – says Jonas Salk didn’t patent the polio vaccine, butGoogle Doodles—like today’s on Salk—are patented. By the time of his chat with Murrow, which aired on the day the polio vaccine was announced as safe and 90 percent effective, Salk was already more messiah than virologist to the average American. Polio paralyzed between 13,000 and 20,000 children annually in the last pre-vaccine years, and Salk was the face of the inoculation initiative. Appearing on television to present the vaccine as a gift to the American people was a public relations masterstroke. Over the last half-century, Salk’s rhetorical question to Murrow has become a rallying cry for those who campaign against pharmaceutical company profiteering. To many, it represents a generous view of scientific discovery distilled down to a beautiful simplicity. One critic of the big pharma called Salk “the foster parent of children around the world with no thought of the money he could make by withholding the vaccine from the children of the poor.”

 “People worked on the polio vaccine like it was the Normandy invasion,” says Jane Smith, author of the book Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine. More than 650,000 children were vaccinated. Their doctors had to submit forms, and public health officials tracked the information. Then it all had to happen again for placebo and control groups. In the single year that the polio vaccine was unveiled, 80 million people donated money to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which spearheaded the vaccine effort. Many donors could only afford a few cents, but gave anyway (hence the foundation’s modern name, the March of Dimes).

Another interesting one in Forbes.com states that Salk would have been richer by $7 billion if his vaccine were patented.  So a worthy doodle on the 100th birth anniversary o the man who created the world's first polio vaccine. The Jonas Salk doodle by Google was  visible in select regions across the world, excluding much of Africa, Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, while also skipping Russia, China, Australia and South America.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

28th Oct 2014.

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