12 Innocuous Facts About Jonas Salk

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Getty

Poliomyelitis, an infectious, potentially fatal disease that permanently paralyzed both children and adults, was once a serious problem in the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed due to polio, and almost 60,000 Americans were infected with polio in 1952. The disease inspired fear because there was no obvious way to prevent it, and it struck thousands of children. In 1955, though, virologist Jonas Salk became a worldwide hero when he developed the first effective polio vaccine. Here are a dozen facts about Salk, the Father of Biophilosophy.

1. HIS FATHER WAS A CLOTHING DESIGNER WITH LIMITED EDUCATION.

Salk’s father, Daniel, was the son of Jewish immigrants who came to America from Eastern Europe. Daniel graduated from elementary school but not high school, and he worked in the garment industry as a designer of women’s blouses. Salk’s mother, Dora, left Russia for the U.S. in 1901 and had no education. Because of their limited instruction, Salk’s parents encouraged him and his two younger brothers to further their schooling and advance in the world.

2. HE PLANNED TO BE A LAWYER AND SERVE IN CONGRESS.

In a 1991 interview with the Academy of Achievement, Salk revealed that he was not interested in science as a child. He entered college as a pre-law student, hoping to be elected to Congress one day. The reason he switched from pre-law to pre-med? "My mother didn't think I’d make a very good lawyer. And I believe that her reasons were that I couldn’t really win an argument with her," he explained.

3. HE WAS REJECTED FROM MULTIPLE LABS AFTER MEDICAL SCHOOL.

After graduating from medical school at New York University and completing his residency training, Salk applied to laboratories to work in medical research. Rather than treat patients as a practicing physician, Salk hoped to work on the influenza vaccine, a research area he began studying in medical school. Although he was rejected from multiple labs, perhaps due to quotas that discriminated against Jewish people, he didn’t get discouraged. "My attitude was always to keep open, to keep scanning. I think that's how things work in nature. Many people are close-minded, rigid, and that's not my inclination," he revealed in his Academy of Achievement interview.

4. THE MARCH OF DIMES FOUNDATION FUNDED HIS RESEARCH.

Salk worked on the influenza vaccine at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health until 1947, when he began running a lab at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The next year, he started working on a project for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation) to research the different types of polio. Roosevelt created the foundation in 1938 to help other Americans suffering from polio, and the foundation funded many polio research and vaccine trials, including Salk’s.

5. HE TESTED THE POLIO VACCINE ON HIS OWN FAMILY.

In the early 1950s, Salk tested the polio vaccine he developed on monkeys, children in Pittsburgh, and himself. Strongly believing in the safety and efficacy of his vaccine, Salk also injected his wife, Donna, and their three sons [PDF] in the family’s kitchen, using syringes he had boiled on the stove. In 1953, Salk published the preliminary results of his human testing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. By June 1954, 1.8 million children and adults, dubbed polio pioneers, had volunteered to be injected with Salk’s vaccine (or a placebo) in a double-blind trial, sponsored by the March of Dimes. And on April 12, 1955, Salk’s vaccine was licensed. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the media reported that Salk's national trial was a success, and crowds of ecstatic people celebrated the news.

6. OTHER SCIENTISTS CRITICIZED HIS NOVEL APPROACH TO VACCINES.

Although Salk was lauded as a savior and international hero, some of his fellow scientists didn’t feel the love. Polish-American scientist Albert Sabin loudly criticized Salk, calling him a kitchen chemist and trying to discredit his choice to use a killed polio virus (rather than a live or weakened one) in his vaccine. Sabin, as well as many of Salk’s contemporaries, incorrectly believed that a killed virus wouldn’t adequately immunize the patient. Additionally, a vaccine using a weakened polio virus might actually infect the patient with polio, and Salk didn’t want to take that risk. Other scientists resented Salk for succeeding outside the medical establishment and for getting all the accolades when he was just one of many researchers working on polio.

In 1962, Sabin introduced an oral (sugar cube) polio vaccine that contained a live (rather than killed) virus, and the U.S. government began using Sabin’s vaccine instead of Salk’s because it was cheaper and still effective. Today, a reformulated version of Salk’s vaccine is used in most parts of the world (except for parts of Africa and the Middle East where polio is still a problem, and where Sabin’s vaccine is used).

7. HE DIDN’T WANT TO FILE A PATENT FOR THE POLIO VACCINE.


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Salk didn’t directly profit from his polio vaccine because he didn’t file a patent for it. When a journalist asked him who owned the patent, Salk responded: "The people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" Salk reportedly objected to owning the patent because millions of Americans had donated money to the March of Dimes, hoping to help eradicate polio. But according to U.S. patent law, the vaccine wasn’t novel enough to be patentable, so some scholars criticize Salk for presenting himself as an altruistic person when he was probably aware that the vaccine couldn’t be patented. Forbes estimates that had he owned the patent, Salk could have earned $7 billion.

8. HE DISLIKED BEING A PUBLIC FIGURE.

Although Salk quickly became a world hero, he didn’t enjoy losing his anonymity and gaining the responsibilities that came with being a public figure. "I felt myself very much like someone in the eye of a hurricane because all this swirling was going on around me. It was at that moment that everything changed," Salk recalled of becoming an overnight celebrity. Some scientists criticized him for hogging the international media spotlight, and the National Academy of Sciences and Nobel Prize Committee ignored him, perhaps because he had achieved success while working outside the scientific establishment.

9. HE WAS THE STEPFATHER OF PABLO PICASSO’S CHILDREN.

In 1970, Salk married Françoise Gilot, a French artist who had two children, Claude and Paloma, with Pablo Picasso. In an interview in 1980, Paloma remembered the fear people had of polio, and that as a child, she didn’t visit her father’s house in the South of France due to a polio outbreak. She also revealed that she got along well with her stepfather: "He’s very cute. He’s a wonderful person," she said. After his death in 1995, Gilot continued her late husband's legacy by working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

10. HE TRIED TO DEVELOP CURES FOR CANCER AND AIDS.

After Salk developed the polio vaccine, he tried to develop vaccines for cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Although he wasn’t ultimately successful, he did patent Remune, a vaccine for AIDS to delay the progression of HIV into AIDS. In 2001, six years after Salk died, Pfizer stopped funding clinical trials for Remune due to a lack of evidence that it worked.

11. HE WROTE A HANDFUL OF BOOKS ABOUT SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY.

Throughout the 1970s and '80s, Salk wrote books about science, philosophy, and mankind. In The Survival of the Wisest, Salk applied Charles Darwin’s ideas on survival of the fittest to the need for humankind to be educated and have knowledge. And in World Population and Human Values: A New Reality, he and his psychiatrist son, Dr. Jonathan Salk, discussed the interplay between world population growth and human values.

12. THE SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES CONTINUES HIS WORK.

In 1963, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies opened in La Jolla, California. Although Salk reportedly struggled with running the business side of the institute, he got funding from the March of Dimes Foundation and recruited Nobel Prize-winning scientists to investigate the biological aspects of cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Designed by architect Louis Kahn, the institute continues to serve as a research center for immunology, neuroscience, and genetics.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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17 Facts About Airplane! On Its 40th Anniversary

Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Shot on a budget of $3.5 million, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed Airplane!, a movie intended to parody the onslaught of disaster movies that graced movie theater screens in the 1970s. The comedy classic, which arrived in theaters on July 2, 1980, ended up making more than $83.4 million in theaters in the United States alone, and resurrecting a few acting careers in the process. Here are some things you might not have known about the comedy classic on its 40th anniversary.

1. Airplane! was almost a direct parody of the 1957 movie Zero Hour!

Shorewood, Wisconsin childhood friends Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker grew up and moved to Los Angeles, where they were responsible for the sketch comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theater. The trio made a habit of recording late-night television, looking for commercials to make fun of for their video and film parodies, which is how they discovered Zero Hour!, which also featured a protagonist named Ted Stryker (in Airplane! it's Ted Striker). In order to make sure the camera angles and lighting on Airplane! were matching those of Zero Hour!, the trio always had the movie queued up on set. Yes, the three filmmakers did buy the rights to their semi source material.

2. Universal thought Airplane! was too similar to their Airport franchise.

Universal released four plane disaster movies in the seventies: Airport in 1970; Airport 1975 (confusingly in 1974); Airport ‘77; and The Concorde ... Airport ‘79. Helen Reddy portrayed Sister Ruth in Airport 1975 and was game to play Sister Angelina in Airplane! before Universal stepped in and threatened to sue. Instead, the role went to Maureen McGovern, who sang the Oscar-winning theme songs to The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno—two movies that were also “disaster” movies, albeit ones not involving a plane.

3. David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and other future stars auditioned for Airplane!

In early conversations regarding Airplane!, Paramount Studios suggested Dom DeLuise for what would eventually become Leslie Nielsen’s role, and Barry Manilow for the role of Ted Striker, but they were never asked to audition.

4. Chevy Chase was mistakenly announced as the star of Airplane!.

Chevy Chase was erroneously announced as the star of Airplane! in a 1979 news item in The Hollywood Reporter.

5. The role of Roger Murdock was written with Pete Rose in mind.

Pete Rose was busy playing baseball when Airplane! was shot in August, so they cast Kareem Abdul-Jabbar instead.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a pretty swanky carpet out of his Airplane! gig.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, and Rossie Harris in Airplane! (1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rossie Harris, and Peter Graves in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s agent insisted on an extra $5000 to the original offer of a $30,000 salary so that the basketball legend could purchase an oriental rug he'd had his eye on.

7. Peter Graves thought the Airplane! script was "tasteless trash."

Peter Graves eventually found the humor in the film, including the pedophilia jokes, and agreed to play Captain Oveur. Graves's wife was glad he took the role; she laughed throughout the premiere screening.

8. No, the child actor playing young Joey didn't know what Peter Graves was actually saying.

Rossie Harris was only 9 years old when he played the role of Joey, so did not understand the humor in Turkish prisons, gladiator movies, or any of Oveur’s other comments. But by the time he turned 10 and saw the movie, Harris had apparently figured it out.

9. Airplane! marked Ethel Merman's final film appearance.

"The undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage” played a disturbed soldier who believed he was Ethel Merman. Merman passed away in 1984.

10. Michael Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul was in Airplane!.

Jonathan Banks plays air traffic controller Gunderson.

11. Airplane!'s three-director setup caused legal problems.

The Directors Guild of America ruled that Abrahams and the two Zuckers couldn’t all be credited for directing a movie, nor be credited under the single “fictitious name of Abrahams N. Zuckers.” A DGA rep was on set to make sure that only Jerry Zucker spoke to the actors. What he saw was Jerry Zucker next to the camera, who would then go to a nearby trailer where the other two were watching the takes on a video feed, and come back to give notes to the actors after conferring with his partners. A DGA executive board eventually gave the three one-time rights to all share the credit.

12. A BIT ABOUT BLIND POLISH AIRLINE PILOTS WAS WRITTEN AND FILMED.

Blind singer José Feliciano, and lookalikes of blind singers Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, played Polish airline co-pilots. The Polish-American League protested, and it was determined by the writer-directors that the idea wasn’t funny enough to stay in the movie.

13. Robert Hays was starring in a TV show at the same time he was filming Airplane!

Robert Hays, the actor who played Ted Striker, had to race back and forth between the sets of Angie and Airplane! for two very busy weeks. The theme song to Angie was performed by the one and only Maureen McGovern.

14. Robert Hays was—and is—a licensed pilot.

He can even fly the ones with four engines.

15. Leslie Nielsen had a lot of fun with his fart machine.

Leslie Nielsen sold portable fart machines for $7 apiece on set, causing a brief epidemic of fart noises emanating from most of the cast and crew and delaying production. When they were shooting Hays’s close-up, Nielsen used the machine after every other word of his line, “Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?”

16. Stephen Stucker came up with all of Johnny's lines.

Lloyd Bridges and Stephen Stucker in Airplane! (1980)
Stephen Stucker and Lloyd Bridges in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Stephen Stucker was a member of the Kentucky Fried Theater. His line “Me John, Big Tree” was part of an old riff he used to do, which continued with him going down on his knees and putting an ear to the ground to hear when a wagon train was arriving.

17. The original rough cut of Airplane! was 115 minutes long.

After screenings at three college campuses and two theaters, the film was cut down to 88 minutes.