Jonas Salk’s vaccine against polio brought a fearful epidemic to a close. In the centennial year of Salk’s birth, we celebrate his achievement with the screening of The Shot Felt ’Round the World. This 2010 production chronicles Salk’s crucial work at the University of Pittsburgh that led to the polio vaccine’s success in the 1950s.
Produced by Stephanie Dangel Reiter, Carl Kurlander, and Laura Davis, and directed by Tjardus Greidanus, the hour-long documentary starts with the March of Dimes, a charity founded by President Franklin Roosevelt, himself paralyzed by the disease. March of Dimes’ sponsorship helped Salk develop his vaccine in the early 1950s. Public concern over the disease was so great that widespread testing started almost immediately. The vaccine was pronounced safe in 1955, with mass vaccination following. By the 1960s, polio in the United States was largely under control; the last known endemic case was in 1979.
The film not only looks at the well-known battle against polio, but also delves into the hidden stories, both of the researchers and of the sufferers. After the screening, we are pleased to welcome three commentators for a discussion of the film: Peter L. Salk, M.D., president of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation and son of Jonas Salk; Jeffrey Kluger, senior correspondent for Time magazine and author of Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio; and Bert Hansen, Ph.D., professor of the history of science and medicine at Baruch College and author of Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio.
About the Speakers:
Bert Hansen, Ph.D., is professor of history at Baruch College of City University of New York, following appointments at Binghamton University (SUNY), New York University, and the University of Toronto. His recent book, Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America, was honored with awards from the Popular Culture Association and the American Library Association. The book argues that the triumphs of Louis Pasteur in 1885 and Jonas Salk in 1955 bookend a glorious period of unalloyed popular enthusiasm for medical advances that didn’t sustain itself much beyond the 1950s. The Salk vaccine marked the end of one era in popular sentiments and the beginning of another.
Jeffrey Kluger is the science editor for Time magazine and Time.com, principally covering science and social issues. His newest nonfiction book is The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed—In Your World, published in September 2014. His most recent novel was Freedom Stone, a young adult tale set on a South Carolina plantation in 1863, published in 2011. He is the author of seven other books, including Apollo 13 (1994), coauthored with Jim Lovell, which served as the basis of the 1995 movie; and Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio (2004). His 2001 cover story on global warming for Time won the Overseas Press Club Award for best environmental reporting of the year.
Kluger has worked at Discover magazine, Family Circle, The New York Times Business World, and Science Digest. His work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Omni, McCall's, New York Magazine, The New York Post, Newsday, and, of course, Time. He has been an adjunct instructor in the graduate journalism program at New York University; is a licensed attorney; and is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughters.
Peter L. Salk, M.D., is president of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation and son of Jonas Salk. Dr. Salk graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 1965 and Alpha Omega Alpha from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1969. Following two years of house staff training in internal medicine at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, he worked in his father’s laboratory at the Salk Institute from 1972 to 1984, conducting research on immunotherapy of cancer, autoimmune disease, and strategies for vaccine production. He worked again with his father from 1991 to 1995 on a project to develop an inactivated vaccine for HIV infection, and subsequently worked on the introduction of AIDS treatment programs in Africa and Asia. He is currently President of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation, where he is devoting attention to the effort to complete the eradication of polio, organizing and making available the extensive collections of his father’s papers and historical materials, educating the public regarding his father’s life and work, and extending and applying his father’s vision to help address humanity’s present challenges and opportunities.