When a waiting world learned on April 12, 1955, that Jonas Salk had successfully created a vaccine to prevent poliomyelitis, he became a hero overnight. Born in a New York tenement, humble in manner, Salk had all the makings of a twentieth-century icon-a knight in a white coat. In the wake of his achievement, he received a staggering number of awards and honors; for years his name ranked with Gandhi and Churchill on lists of the most revered people. And yet the one group whose adulation he craved--the scientific community--remained ominously silent. "The worst tragedy that could have befallen me was my success," Salk later said. "I knew right away that I was through-cast out." In the first complete biography of Jonas Salk, Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs unravels Salk's story to reveal an unconventional scientist and a misunderstood and vulnerable man. Despite his incredible success in developing the polio vaccine, Salk was ostracized by his fellow scientists, who accused him of failing to give proper credit to other researchers and scorned his taste for media attention. Even before success catapulted him into the limelight, Salk was an inscrutable man disliked by many of his peers. Driven by an intense desire to aid mankind, he was initially oblivious and eventually resigned to the personal cost--as well as the costs suffered by his family and friends. And yet Salk remained, in the eyes of the public, an adored hero. Based on hundreds of personal interviews and unprecedented access to Salk's sealed archives, Jacobs' biography offers the most complete picture of this complicated figure. Salk's story has never been fully told; until now, his role in preventing polio has overshadowed his part in co-developing the first influenza vaccine, his effort to meld the sciences and humanities in the magnificent Salk Institute, and his pioneering work on AIDS. A vivid and intimate portrait, this will become the standard work on the remarkable life of Jonas Salk.
Charlotte D. Jacobs, M.D. is the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine (Emerita) at Stanford University. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, she graduated from the University of Rochester and studied medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. As a professor at Stanford University, she engaged in teaching, cancer research, and patient care. She has served as Senior Associate Dean and as Director of the Clinical Cancer Center. Her academic honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa, Kaiser Foundation Award for Innovative and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, Rambar Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. She has published ninety scientific articles and three books which reflect her cancer and medical education research. She currently cares for veterans with cancer at the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center.
Mid-career, Jacobs began studying biography writing with Ehud Havazelet, formerly at Stanford University, currently at University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program. She has been awarded writing residencies at The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, NH), Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Sweet Briar, VA), and The Ragdale Foundation (Lake Forest, IL), and Djerassi Resident Artists Program (Woodside CA) where she received the Patricia E. Bashaw and Eugene Segre Fellowship.
Her first biography, Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin’s Disease, was published by Stanford University Press in March of 2010; paperback was released in 2012. Kaplan was an esteemed and controversial physician-scientist whose remarkable discoveries and passionate drive to cure cancer changed the course of cancer therapy. A dual drama, Kaplan’s life is intertwined with the history of Hodgkin’s disease. The Wall Street Journal called Jacobs’ biography one of theBest Five Books on doctors’ lives. The San Francisco Chronicle called it an “exquisite, compelling biography of the man who helped make Hodgkin’s disease a curable condition.”
Jacobs’second biography, Jonas Salk, was published by Oxford University Press in May, 2015.
With Michael Sally, Jacobs has co-authored Just My TYPE, the book for a musical comedy based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, with music and lyrics by Emmy winner Rita Abrams. Jacobs has received a number of Bay area awards for her acting and singing.
Jacobs and her husband, Roderick A. Young, have five sons and live in Stanford, California.