Dr. Jonas Salk is the first Jewish American
to appear on a United States coin

In 2015, the Mint will sell up to 500,000 commemorative silver dollars marking the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1938 creation of the organization to combat polio--originally called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later changed to the March of Dimes. Roosevelt took the lead because of his own struggle with the disease. A surcharge will be added to the cost of each coin sold to raise money for the March of Dimes, which will be used to help finance research, education and health services aimed at improving the health of women, infants and children.

Jonas Edward Salk was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. After graduating from the City College of New York, he went on to be a research fellow at the University of Michigan. There he helped in the development of an influenza vaccine and served as a member of the US Army Influenza Commission. Moving to the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine, Salk became Research Professor of Bacteriology in 1949, Professor of Preventive Medicine 5 years later, and finally Professor of Experimental Medicine (1957-1963).

At the University of Pittsburgh, Salk did research into poliomyelitis, developing immunological methods to distinguish different types of the virus. He then developed a vaccine prepared by inactivating the virus. Massive field trials conducted by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1954 confirmed the effectiveness of the vaccine, which became the first weapon against the polio scourge. In the years immediately before mass inoculations with the Salk vaccine began, there was an average of 25,000 cases a year in the United States; in 1969 not a single death from polio was reported in the nation, and the disease has virtually been eradicated worldwide. For his pioneering accomplishment, Dr. Salk received many honors and awards, including the Presidential Citation and the Congressional Medal for Distinguished Achievement.

Dr. Salk turned down a ticker tape parade by New York City in honor of his discovery; instead he asked that the money be used for scholarships presented by the City College of New York (CCNY). In 2013, Forbes Magazine estimated that Salk had forfeited about 7 billion dollars by not patenting the Polio Vaccine!

The following designs, featuring Dr. Salk, were among those entered in the competition. Can you pick the winning design for the March of Dimes commemorative silver dollar?

And the winners are Artistic Infusion Program artist Paul C. Balan, who designed the obverse (Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Guardioso sculpted it), and Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart, who designed and sculpted the reverse. A proof example of the coin is pictured below.

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