The past teaches us about the present.
European enlightenment was a short period of around 70-90 years, arising largely from Sir Isaac Newton who used mathematical formulations to describe the universe. Laws of motion, universal gravitation. Built a telescope. He was even the first person to describe tides using gravitational attraction - something many anglers are familiar with today.
The period of enlightenment was a time where people took the ideas and methods of the scientific revolution to see if they could discover the natural laws which governed the universe and human society...to ultimately create a better society for everybody. The catholic church and monarchy's were undercut by this movement and liberty, progress, toleration, and constitutional governments took favor. Our society is a result of this short period of time - see declaration of independence and the US constitution. Life, liberty, religious freedom, pursuit of happiness.
The Polio epidemic was announced in Brooklyn, NY during 1916. 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths were recorded in the United States (For comparison, we currently have 195,000 deaths from COVID19). In Children, 1 in 1000 polio cases resulted in paralysis. The names and addresses of those infected were published daily in the national press, people were quarantined, and mass panic struck the nation as thousands fled the cities. Movie theaters were closed and public gatherings were virtually non existent.
Fast forward to the 50's - schools, communities, businesses were all heavily united in efforts to fight the disease. 80 million
people donated money to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis during a single year, many only giving the few cents they could.
Jonas Salk was an American medical researcher everybody needs to know about. He rode the wave of immense public support and developed a vaccine for polio. This vaccine was tested on an unprecedented 1.8 million children. It was highly successful and when the polio vaccine became available shortly thereafter it decreased polio cases by 90% between 1955-57. Further oral vaccines were developed. The USA was polio free in 1994. Europe was polio free in 2002. Current efforts are underway to completely eradicate the virus.
Salk did not patent the vaccine, instead choosing to gift it to the public (valued at ~7 billion) Some argue he attempted to patent the vaccine but learned it could not be patented. Regardless, before deciding to forgo the patent application the organization had already committed to give the formulation and production processes for the vaccine to several pharmaceutical companies for free. Could you patent the sun?
Medical researchers aren't boring. He went on to marry Picasso's famous mistress Francoise Gilot. They were married from 1970 to his death in 2004. She is still alive today - wouldn't it be great to buy her a couple drinks and listen to her stories. Her art, picasso, and Salk.
As a country, we have been here before! Although we share different thoughts and beliefs it is vital we share our common foundation and keep following the light. The enlightenment paved the way for our country and, ultimately, Dr. Salk and the many others who have made major breakthroughs in science and progress - all to the benefit of us. Here's to hoping 2020 gets better for everyone - it's been a tough year!