The Thing About Today – October 24

October 24, 2020
Day 298 of 366

October 24th is the 298th day of the year. It is United Nations Day, commemorating the date in 1945 when the United Nations officially came into existence.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Food Day, National Bologna Day, and National Make A Difference Day (typically observed on the fourth Saturday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1851, William Lassell discovered the moons Umbriel and Ariel orbiting Uranus.
  • In 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States was completed.
  • In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
  • In 1915, author and illustrator Bob Kane was born. With Bill Finger, he co-created the character of Batman.
  • In 1926, Harry Houdini’s last performance took place at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit.
  • In 1929, “Black Thursday” occurred on the New York Stock Exchange. The market lost 11 percent of its value at the opening bell on very heavy trading. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended shortly thereafter, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.
  • In 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened to public traffic over the Hudson River.
  • In 1939, actor F. Murray Abraham was born.
  • In 1946, a camera on board the V-2 No. 13 rocket took the first photograph of earth from outer space.
  • In 1949, the cornerstone of the United Nations Headquarters was laid.
  • In 1960, actor B.D. Wong was born.
  • In 1962, The Manchurian Candidate premiered.
  • In 1989, actress Eliza Taylor was born.
  • In 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays became the first Major League Baseball team based outside the United States to win the World Series.
  • In 1998, Deep Space 1 was launched to explore the asteroid belt and test new spacecraft technologies.
  • In 2003, Concorde made its last commercial flight.
  • In 2007, Chang’e 1, the first satellite in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

In 1914, Jonas Salk was born. He was the virologist and medical researcher who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines.

In 1947, Salk accepted a professorship in the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he undertook a project to determine the number of different types of poliovirus, starting in 1948 with funding from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and he gathered a research team and devoted himself to this work for the next seven years.

The field trials were called the the most elaborate program of its kind in history. They included 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers. Over 1.8 million schoolchildren took part in the trials.

Before the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955, polio was considered one of the most serious public health problems in the world, and epidemics were increasingly devastating in the post-war United States. The 1952 epidemic in the United States killed 3,145 people and left 21,269 with some form of paralysis. Known as the worst polio outbreak in the nation’s history, most of its victims were children.

After news of the vaccine’s success was first made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was immediately hailed as a “miracle worker”, but he chose to not patent the vaccine or seek any profit from it in order to maximize its global distribution. Less than 25 years later, domestic transmission of polio had been completely eliminated in the United States.

October 24th is known as World Polio Day to commemorate Salk’s birth and his work in defeating the polio virus.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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