In 1954, there were so many polio cases at the Boston Children’s Hospital they had to perform sidewalk triage in front of distressed parents seated in idling cars.
The polio vaccine was successfully tested the following year. By 1979, polio was eradicated in the United States.
Most people today don’t even know the name Jonas Salk, the scientist who discovered the polio vaccine. But to an entire generation he was a beloved hero.
Interestingly, Salk never received the Nobel Prize. You might be shocked to find out neither did Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. While credit and recognition is nice, it’s not a necessity for leaving behind a legacy.
His discovery is not the only thing Salk left behind. It was his example: His sole focus was to develop a vaccine that would make the world a safer place. He didn’t worry about credit or money or fame.
When asked who owned the patent, Salk simply replied, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
The polio vaccine is estimated to be worth over $7 billion today.
Fame and popularity fade with time. You cannot bring your fortune with you after your short time here on this earth. But legacy, on the other hand, is what stands the test of time.
While being recognized for your achievements and winning trophies are nice, it’s not what professionals care about. They do the work because it matters. And, more importantly, they give it in a generous way. That is what creating art is all about.