When asked who the patent belongs to, he replied, “the people, I would say. There is no patent. Can you patent the sun?”
In America in the 1950’s, polio was the most feared disease. Children by the thousands became infected. Even the world leaders like Franklin Roosevelt had suffered from it. It came as a great relief to people, not just in america, but across the globe, when Dr. Jonas Salk came up with a vaccine against the disease, after working for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for years together.
Although the feat made him famous overnight, Salk went back to his roots and continued his research projects, declaring that he was a scientist, not a celebrity. He used to say, “the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”
As Basil O’Connor, then president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis rightly said, Jonas Salk was a man who saw beyond the microscope. When asked whether he wanted to make money from his invention, he denied the possibility outright.
He had no desire for profit, but wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible. There is some controversy over whether the vaccine could be considered a patentable invention by standards of the day, but his moral fiber remains unquestionable.
Jonas Salk remained dedicated to work till the time he passed away due to heart failure at the age of 80 on June 23, 1995. The cover of Time magazine’s 1999 tribute to the 100 greatest minds of the 20th century featured him alongside Einstein and Freud. Salk remains the people’s scientist – the genius who saw beyond the microscope.