Salk was born in 1914 in New York City. He died in 1994 at age 80, according to the Salk Institute.
Salk was the director of the Virus Research Library at the University of Pittsburgh when he realized he could kill the polio virus with formaldehyde but still have it trigger an immune response.
Polio was an epidemic in the U.S. for many years, leading to paralysis in thousands of people. In 1955 the vaccine Salk developed went public and Salk was hailed a hero. The epidemic was stopped in its tracks.
Salk never patented the vaccine, and didn't earn any money from it.
He founded the Salk Institute in 1967 devoted to the study of biological sciences.