Last night on the CBS show Scorpion one of Pittsburgh's most esteemed former residents was mentioned: Dr. Jonas Salk. For those who don't know, Scorpion is a show about a team of geniuses that assists the Department of Homeland Security with special problem--a premise I find fascinating.
The context of the Jonas Salk mention was regarding the strategies needed to tackle difficult problems. Specifically, when Salk was solving the problem of the polio vaccine he battened down and thought through the problem and didn't just wish that things would go his way. This is the admonition to never putting anything above the facts of reality, or as Ayn Rand succinctly put it, never put an "I wish" above an "it is"--something that physicians and scientists, especially, must never forget.
Being from Pittsburgh, Jonas Salk has a special resonance with me. I have heard countless stories from people who knew or met him and I'm a bit jealous of their opportunity. Walking around Pittsburgh, being an odd person, I sometimes think about what it would be like to see him walking down the road, getting a slice of pizza, or other things that I do in Pittsburgh every day. In the book Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio--which I highly recommend--it details his almost ritual lunch at a now long gone Chinese restaurant where The Pittsburgh Press (also long gone) science reporter John Troan would try to get an indication of what was transpiring with the polio vaccine work that ultimately changed the face of this dread disease.
One scene in particular really grips me. After the resounding success of the clinical trial of the vaccine was announced in Michigan, Dr. Salk returned to Pittsburgh and was greeted by throngs of people expressing their thanks for he and his team's achievement. His motorcade had a police escort. Imagining Dr. Salk receiving the fanfare almost exclusively reserved for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates is kind of exhilarating and I can almost experience the sense of justice and Pittsburgh pride that must have electrified the air on that day.
I am glad that Scorpion, a show whose theme I believe revolves around the crucial survival value of intelligence saw fit to pay homage to one of the real life examples that concretizes the veracity of its theme.