"Salk’s Virus Research Laboratory was in the basement of the building then known as the Municipal Hospital for Contagious Diseases. The hospital was built by the City of Pittsburgh in 1941 on land given to it by the University. In 1947, when Salk was recruited to Pitt, arrangements were made for him to build his laboratories in the hospital basement, where he assembled the core research team responsible for developing the vaccine.
The upper stories of the building continued to serve as a hospital, and team members reported that their sense of urgency was driven by the knowledge that just three stories above them were wards filled with polio patients. Many of these patients, too severely paralyzed to breathe on their own, peered from the massive metal cylinders —the iron lungs— that breathed for them. The Salk team 'worked at breakneck speed' because every day polio condemned more children to those machines.
Following the vaccine’s success and the general decline of contagious diseases, the city’s need for the hospital also declined. In 1957, the University acquired the building from the city and renamed it Jonas E. Salk Hall. After partial interim use as a residence hall, the building was remodeled from 1965 to 1967 and became the home of Pitt’s School of Pharmacy and School of Dental Medicine"1.
- Photos by Marta Bertolaso (March 2011)
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