Throughout history there have been innumerable people who have provided advances of incalculable importance, most of which are either lost to history. However, on October 28th, two researchers were born that made a two of the most important advances in modern medicine. I know I am a day late (sorry!) but I still feel like they need to be given as much notoriety as possible because of their importance.
The first is Sir Richard Shaboe Doll, the British epidemologist born in 1912 that helped link smoking to lung cancer. As most of us know, smoking tobacco actually used to be prescribed by doctors as beneficial to health, which is absolutely crazy to think about now! It started in 1947 when he was asked to look into increased lung cancer rates in England, with the suspect being the rapid increase in motorized vehicles on the road. However he quickly and definitively proved that it was related to the smoking of cigarettes and tobacco that was the cause. A life long smoker, he actually quit because of this information! While this connection would have no doubt been made at some point, it was an important first step in understanding the harm that occurred from a product consumed by millions annually.
The second of these important birthdays occurred in 1914, and was the entrance of Jonas Salk into this world. Salk, an American researcher, developed the polio vaccine. Released in 1955, it was a miracle drug that helped contain, and eventually eradicate in many parts of the world, one of the most dismal diseases humans faced. It killed a significant proportion of those it infected, leaving most of the rest with some form of paralysis for the rest of their life. This vaccine helped save millions who would otherwise have suffered without it. Fun fact: while millions of children were vaccinated against polio in 1956, teenagers were very much against it. That all changed when Elvis Presley agreed to be vaccinated live on television, endorsing the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. The subsequent increase in vaccinations was exponential, and this moment was truly important in the early vaccination campaigns. Now if only modern celebrities listened to actual science instead of listening to disgraced attention seeking researchers….