We have all heard about sacrifices, and at some point, we might have also sacrificed certain things in our lives for the betterment of our family and friends. Similarly, here is the list of ten people who have sacrificed big for the greater good of humanity. Continue reading and feel inspired by their altruistic nature.
1. Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine.
Jonas Salk was an American physician and medical researcher. In 1947, he accepted a professorship at the University of Pittsburgh in the School of Medicine, and he soon undertook a project to determine the different types of poliovirus. This led him to extend the project further to develop a vaccine against polio.
Polio is a virus that infects the spinal cord and paralyzes the body. With the increasing cases of polio, it was critical to find a vaccine. While many scientists thought vaccines could only be developed with live viruses for it to be effective, Jonas Salk developed a “killed-virus” vaccine where he grew the virus and deactivated it using formaldehyde to prevent its reproduction. This killed-virus can trick the immune system into providing antibodies without the risk of infecting the person.
On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was declared safe and effective after multiple tests. When Salk was asked who owned the patent, he said the people owned it because the research was funded by charitable donations raised by the March of Dimes. According to Forbes, if Salk had patented the vaccine, he would have been richer by $7 billion. (1, 2)
2. Jesus Garcia, who saved a mining town from a massive explosion.
A 23-year-old, Jesus Garcia, was the railroad brakeman for the town of Nacozari, Sonora. On November 7, 1907, when he was taking a break at the freight yard, he noticed smoke rising from the roof of a car carrying dynamite. The hay on the roof had caught fire by the sparks flying from the train’s chimney stack. The train was transporting dynamite, and he realized that if the dynamite caught on fire, then the town would be in danger.
To save the town from a full-blown explosion, he got into the train and drove it in reverse at full-steam for six kilometers to get the train far away from the civilization before the train exploded. The explosion killed him and a few other passengers, but the town was safe. He is now revered as a national hero and many streets, schools, and other public places in Mexico are named after him. (source)
3. Volvo gave away the invention of Nils Bohlin’s three-point seatbelt design for free.
Before the invention of the three-point seatbelt that you now see in cars, there was a two-point seatbelt that went across the lap. The single strap across the lap did not contribute much towards the safety of the passenger since it didn’t restrain the torso. It left the passenger vulnerable to head, chest, or spinal injury during a collision, and it was also dangerous to the internal organs.
Volvo, a Swedish company, which believes in driver and passenger safety as a core part of the brand, decided to innovate the seatbelt for maximum safety. They hired Nils Bohlin from a rival company, Saab, to invent a better solution. Bohlin invented the V-shape, three-point seatbelt, which buckles up across the chest and waist. This shape helped to restrain the torso and the pelvis.
Volvo patented the design and could have benefitted from it if they made it exclusive, but instead, they decided it had more value as a free, life-saving tool than something to profit from and gifted the design to rival brands to encourage mass adoption and save lives. (1, 2)
4. Billionaire Chuck Feeney, who gave away his fortune.
Chuck Feeney, an Irish-American businessman, made a fortune being the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers Group which began the concept of duty-free shopping. He is also the founder of the Atlantic Philanthropies, which funneled in around $6.2 billion for education, healthcare, scientific research, and civil rights in several countries.
Feeney was also an anonymous contributor to his philanthropy for many years and secretly transferred his assets including his 38.75% ownership of the Duty Free Shopping Group to Atlantic Philanthropy. He has given away about $8 billion in his lifetime.
His personal net worth is just over $2 million now. He lives a simple life in a rented apartment in San Francisco, does not own a car, and only traveled in coach until he was 75. He leads a modest life for a billionaire. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have cited Feeney as a major inspiration for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Giving Pledge. (1, 2)
5. Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web.
The World Wide Web is an information system where resources can be identified by uniform resource locators or URLs, which is accessible via the Internet. It was invented in 1989 by English scientist Tim Berners-Lee. After his graduation from Oxford University, he joined as a software engineer at CERN.
CERN is one of the largest and reputed centers for scientific research, so scientists from all over the world came to use its resources. But Berners-Lee noticed that it was hard for the scientists to share any information. To solve this problem, he came up with a solution that used the emerging technology called “hypertext,” and thus, the World Wide Web was conceived.
By 1990, he wrote three fundamental technologies of the web: HTML, URI/URL, HTTP. He also wrote the first browser and the webserver. As the web began to grow, he realized it could reach its full potential only when others could access it for free and with no permission.
His net worth is currently around $50 million. If he had patented his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different place, and he could have been a billionaire, but he gave it to the world for free. (1, 2)