4. Polio Vaccine
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease that can cause paralysis. Major polio epidemics began to appear in the late 19th century in Europe, coming to the United States shortly thereafter. Polio quickly became one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century, finding its most famous sufferer in US president Franklin D. Roosevelt. The race toward a vaccine culminated with successful trials in the 1950s, and now polio vaccines have reduced the number of global cases from hundreds of thousands to just under a thousand per year.
Austrian Jewish biologist Karl Landsteiner identified polio’s causative agent in 1908. But the true hero is Jonas Salk, the Jewish medical researcher who developed the first successful inactive polio vaccine. The field trial for the vaccine, which took seven years to develop, involved over one million school children. When news of the vaccine’s success was announced in 1955, Salk was hailed as a hero. Further, he refused to patent the vaccine, choosing to save lives rather than make a profit.