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Famed Dr. Jonas E. Salk, MD, during speech at Conrad Hilton.Jonas Edward Salk (October 28, 1914 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. He was born in New York City to parents from Ashkenazi Jewish Russian immigrant families. Although they themselves did not have much formal education, they were determined to see their children succeed. While attending New York University School of Medicine, he stood out from his peers not just because of his academic prowess, but because he chose to do medical research instead of becoming a physician.