Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International

The Watson Institute

The Watson Institute, through its family of schools and services, helps children and youth with special needs to achieve their fullest potential in all aspects of their lives. The Watson Institute is the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. David Thompson Watson. As a Pittsburgh business leader and well known international attorney (representing such notables as A.M. Byers, Andrew Carnegie, W.H.Vanderbilt, Henry Phipps and Henry Clay Frick-David) Watson and his wife, Margaret, dedicated considerable time and resources for the care, education and treatment of children with disabilities. After David's death in 1916, the Watson's "Sunny Hill" summer estate in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, became the D.T.Watson Home for Crippled Children.

In the 1940s Watson began to see an influx of polio patients. During the 1950s, Watson’s facility was one of only four schools in the country chosen by the National Association of Infantile Paralysis to provide emergency care for those without access to hospitals in epidemic areas. The others were Harvard, Northwestern and Stanford. In 1943, Sister Elizabeth Kenny traveled to Sewickley to teach Watson's physical therapy students the "Kenny Method," the treatment of choice for treating polio survivors.

In 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk and his research team administered polio vaccines to children at  Watson who were already suffering from the disease. Upon its success, the vaccine was given to Watson's physical therapy students and staff. The success of these trials led to more widespread vaccinations, including children at several schools throughout the Sewickley area. Next, the researchers inoculated more than 4,000 children in the Pittsburgh public schools. In 1955, after the vaccine trials were declared safe and effective, the inoculation was given to children throughout the country.

The Watson Institute
301 Camp Meeting Road
Sewickley, Pennsylvania 15143
412-741-1800 or toll-free: 1-866-893-4751
Communications Specialist
412- 749-2851


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