On This Day

The Polio Epidemic in History

Historical Events

Historic Event

1921-08-10 FDR stricken with a paralytic illness at summer home on Canadian island of Campobello. At the time it was thought to be polio, but could possibly have been Guillain–Barré syndrome

  • 1938-01-03 March of Dimes established to fight polio

Scientific Discovery

1953-03-26 Dr. Jonas Salk announces that he has successfully tested a vaccine to prevent polio, clinical trials began the next year

  • 1954-02-23 1st mass inoculation against polio with the Jonas Salk vaccine takes place at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 1954-04-26 Mass trials of Jonas Salk's anti-polio vaccine begin; the first shot is delivered in Fairfax County, Virginia; more than 443,000 children receive shots over three months
  • 1955-04-12 Polio vaccine tested by Jonas Salk announced to be 'safe and effective' and is given full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration
  • 1955-11-03 Scientists Carlton E. Schwerdt and Fred L. Schaffer announce they have crystallized the pure polio virus, meaning they can better determine the virus' chemical and biological properties

Historic Event

1956-10-06 Scientist Albert Sabin announces that his oral polio vaccine is ready for testing; it would soon supplant Jonas Salk's vaccine in many parts of the world

  • 2012-02-25 World Health Organization removes India from the list of polio endemic countries
  • 2012-12-18 6 health workers dispensing polio vaccinations are gunned down in Pakistan
  • 2018-06-26 Polio outbreak confirmed in New Guinea by WHO, 18 years after it was declared free of the disease
  • 2019-08-21 Nigeria goes three years without a case of polio in landmark toward eradication of the disease
  • 2020-08-25 WHO announces that Africa has eradicated polio (defined as four years since last case)

Famous Birthdays

  • 1897-02-10 John Franklin Enders, Conn, microbiologist (polio-Nobel 1954)

Albert Sabin

1906-08-26 Albert Sabin [Abram Saperstein], Polish American physician who invented the oral polio vaccine, born in Bialystok, Russian Empire (d. 1993)

Jonas Salk

1914-10-28 Jonas Salk, American medical scientist (created the polio vaccine), born in NYC, New York (d. 1995)

  • 1920-10-24 Julius Youngner, American scientist, helped develop Salk polio vaccine, born in Manhattan, New York (d. 2017)
  • 1945-08-31 Itzhak Perlman, Israeli Grammy Award-winning violinist, and polio survivor, born in Tel Aviv, Israel

Famous Deaths

Albert Sabin

1993-03-03 Albert Sabin [Abram Saperstein], Polish American physician who invented the oral polio vaccine, dies of heart failure at 86

Jonas Salk

1995-06-23 Jonas Salk, American biologist who created the Polio vaccine, dies of heart failure at 80

Arthur C. Clarke

2008-03-19 Arthur C. Clarke, English sci-fi author (2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End), dies of post-polio syndrome at 90

  • 2017-04-27 Julius Youngner, American virologist, helped develop Salk polio vaccine, dies at 96
  • 2018-08-20 Eddie Willis, American guitar and sitar player (The Funk Brothers), dies of polio complications at 82

Famous Physicians