An Unsung Hero

Who is the most important person in the 19th or 20th century and why?

I remember the smile on his face. My father had been stressed for eight years, and I didn't think I'd ever see that smile again. It was an exuberant smile-one that showed a man who was at peace. Even with my father's reassuring smile, I was terribly tense-I hated needles. But if I wanted to be protected, I'd have to withstand those few seconds of pain. My dad had already tested the vaccine on himself, but now it was time to try it on his own family. Ever since he had begun studying the poliomyelitis virus, he had been unable to sleep. That virus had become the bane of every family-people feared sending their children to school because they might contract the disease. Sometimes polio was lethal, but because it attacked the central nervous system, even those who recovered were often paralyzed. It was a grim choice - death or paralysis - but my father said he could stop it.

I remember him looking at us one evening during dinner and asking, "What would you say if I told you that I think I know how to stop polio?" We all looked back at him blankly. Finally, mother replied, "Mr. Jonas Salk! Never say things like that unless you mean it. Do you mean it?" He nodded. We knew he was serious, and my...

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