SEMMELWEIS AND SALK were two great men of vision, passion, and ideas – and as such were mocked and persecuted. Both played an important part in our world of today.

Ignaz Semmelweis 1860The Cry and the Covenant, by Morton Thompson
In 1850 Dr. Semmelweis saved lives with just three words: WASH YOUR HANDS.

Semmelweis delivered babies and noted that many mothers died of puerperal fever – an infectious, sometimes fatal, disease of childbirth. This dreaded, then-mysterious illness could sweep through a hospital maternity ward and kill most of the new mothers. His Viennese counterparts paid no heed. They were more concerned with wiping their hands on their white coats and leaving a bloody patina which they wore day after day as a sign of their importance.

Performing his own research Semmelweis established that dirty hands do carry infection but he was persecuted by his knowledge and eventually driven to an insane asylum.

If you have any scientific interests you’ll find this book hard to put down and you will be wiser for reading it.

Jonas SalkJONAS SALK, by Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs
Salk was an American virologist and medical researcher who developed the first successful polio vaccine. On February 23, 1954 he began the first mass polio vaccination in Pittsburgh.

Contrary to the era’s prevailing scientific opinion, Salk believed his vaccine, composed of “killed” polio virus, could immunize without risk of infecting the patient. Salk administered the vaccine to volunteers who had not had polio, including himself, his lab scientist, his wife, and their children. All developed anti-polio antibodies and experienced no negative reactions to the vaccine.” —Wikipedia

He was a true humanitarian. His dream was to bring science and art together at his institute in California. Founding the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla in 1963 was Salk’s second triumph. But nothing is easy when you are ahead of your time, when you need to raise money, and when politics, greed and personalities take over. What else is new?

Salk spent his last years searching for a vaccine against AIDS. His life’s philosophy is memorialized at the Institute with his now famous quote:

Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

He died on June 23, 1995 at the age of 80. This is an interesting read at this particular time of new vaccines.


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