It’s necessary to have a purpose in life.

Widespread field testing of the first polio vaccine began on this day, February 23, in 1954. The inventor was Dr. Jonas Salk. He put aside profit and refused to patent the vaccine – he wanted to see it distributed as widely as possible. As quoted in Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, when asked who owns the patent for the polio vaccine, Salk answered, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Dr. Salk remained involved in microbiology for the rest of his life. His last years were spent researching AIDS. Below is an excerpt from a 1991 interview

What personal characteristics do you think are most important for success in any field?

Jonas Salk: The first thing I would like to point out is that each of us have a different purpose that we have to serve in the evolutionary scheme of things. We are not all equally endowed to do everything. When I speak about teleological evolution, I speak about the idea of “telos,” purpose. Socrates said, “Know thyself,” meaning, “Know what is the purpose of life that you are inclined to serve, that you are drawn to. Do what makes your heart leap rather than simply follow some style or fashion”. Not everyone can or should be a scientists. Not everyone can or should be any one thing. People need to know what kind of purpose they can serve.

It’s necessary to have a purpose in life. I would say that those who eventually end up taking drugs, that becomes their purpose, in an absence of any other purpose. So number one is to have a purpose. It can be different at different times in your life, as I see in my own life. Take good care of that purpose. Let that be your guide. This requires respecting our own individuality, our own uniqueness and that of others. The idea of being constructive, creative, positive, in trying to bring out the best in one’s own self and the best in others follows from what I’ve just been saying. Again, I repeat my belief in us, in ourselves, as the product of the process of evolution, and part of the process itself. I think of evolution as an error-making and error-correcting process, and we are constantly learning from experience. It’s the need to dedicate one’s self in that way, to one’s own self, and to choose an activity or life that is of value not only to yourself, but to others as well.

by Jonas Salk, Polio Vaccine Developer (October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995)
from his Academy of Achievement interview, 1991

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One Response to “It’s necessary to have a purpose in life.”

  1. March Quote Snack News | Quote Snack Says:

    […] refused to copyright his polio vaccine? I learned about that when researching his quote, “It’s neccesary to have a purpose in life,” for the anniversary of the vaccine’s first en mass use. In this age of terrible […]

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