In Images: How the Polio Vaccine Made History

Polio was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century. Before a vaccine was developed, the poliovirus afflicted millions of children and adults (including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt), sometimes causing lifelong paralysis and breathing difficulties. But by mid-century, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin had developed vaccines against the brutal disease. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, or the March of Dimes, led the effort to vaccinate millions of children, helping to eradicate the disease in the United States. 

Survivors recover

These children are recovering from polio at Municipal Hospital in 1953. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

Hard at work

In 1954, Dr. Jonas Salk perfects the polio vaccine in his Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

A map of success

Dr. Albert Sabin and Dr. Thomas Rivers look at a map of the world. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

Going to trial

On April 27, 1954, Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was administered in the first trials in New York City. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

Due honor

President Dwight Eisenhower awarded Dr. Jonas Salk for his polio vaccine. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

Instruments of the day

The iron lung (an assistive breathing device) and braces like these were used to save and assist victims of polio. (Credit: March of Dimes Foundation)

Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.