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Dr. Salk Legacy Exhibit opens at Pitt

Dr. Salk Legacy Exhibit opens at Pitt
Dr. Salk Legacy Exhibit opens at Pitt 02:45

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health opened a special exhibit on the 70th anniversary of the Salk polio vaccine. 

Jonas Salk developed the historic vaccine at Pitt, and now some of the items and machines used in the discovery are on display at the Dr. Salk Legacy Exhibit. 

In the world before Dr. Salk and other researchers developed the polio vaccine, a dark cloud hung over every child in the world.

"For parents, it was a nightmare," said Donald Burke, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. "Could your kid be the next kid to get paralysis from polio?"

But then came the world-shaking announcement out of Pittsburgh that polio met its match.

"Polio cases went from 58,000 in 1952 to less than 1,000 a few years later. It was a medical miracle at the time," Burke said.

Decades since their use, the tools of that incredible discovery have become available for the public to see during a very special year for the school. 

"The legacy of Jonas Salk belonged in Pittsburgh," Burke said. 

Peter Salk, who is a researcher at Pitt, and his brothers decided to donate the items for the display.

"My two brothers and I have lived with this for nearly our entire life and we've had the privilege of working with my father and keeping guard over these materials that have been in storage for so long," Peter Salk said.

You also will learn more about Jonas Salk, a modest man who was a giant of the 20th century. 

"His devotion to humanity was shown throughout his entire life. First, with the focus on influenza then polio, and the work he later did at the Salk Institute," Peter Salk said.

The curators of the Dr. Salk Legacy Exhibit said they're going to add more things over the next couple of years.

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