1789, British physician Michael Underwood provides first clinical description of the disease.
1894, first outbreak of polio in epidemic form in the U.S. occurs in Vermont, with 132 cases.
1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) contracts polio at age 39. His example has a major impact on public perceptions of individuals with disabilities. Although FDR is open about having had polio, he conceals the extent of his disability.
1953, Salk and his associates develop a potentially safe, inactivated (killed), injected polio vaccine.
1988, Rotary International, PanAmerican Health Organization, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF begin international campaign to stop transmission of polio everywhere in the world.
Polio (also called infantile paralysis) was most often associated with children, but it affected teens and grown-ups as well. Between 1949 and 1954, 35 percent of those who contracted polio were adults.
“There was a tremendous psychological element at work in all of us in our relationship to the lung. The metal respirator assumed an almost animate personality and became a symbol of protection and security…. We were incomplete embryos in a metal womb.”
—Larry Alexander, 1954