Scorpio: intuition and the forensic mind: Jonas Salk

Reason alone will not serve. Intuition alone can be improved by reason, but reason alone without intuition can easily lead the wrong way. They both are necessary. The way I like to put it is that when I have an intuition about something, I send it over to the reason department. Then after I’ve checked it out in the reason department, I send it back to the intuition department to make sure that it’s still all right. Jonas Salk on creativity in science.

The second of the Phlegmatic signs is Scorpio, ruled by a feminine Mars and co-ruled by Pluto. The feminine Mars is just as driven as the masculine Arian Mars, but in a more subtle, deep, and watery manner. There is still that deep sensitivity of water, but with Mars there, Scorpio can have laser vision and massive ambition and drive. The cartoon version of Scorpio uses this for personal power, wealth, and sexual pleasure. The deeper, more evolved Scorpio uses their extraordinary perception and focus for the benefit of all.

‘…my original ambition, or desire, which was to be of some help to humankind,’

The blight of polio has all but disappeared in the West (there are a few pockets in vaccine resisting Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan). When I was a child polio was rampant. In 1952 and 1953, the U.S. had 58,000 and 35,000 polio cases, respectively and deaths of 3,200 and 1,400. President Roosevelt is perhaps the most famous victim, in 1921, at the age of 39, he contracted the disease, one of the thousands that were afflicted that year. The virus principally caused paralysis and sometimes death. It was a terrible disease. A lot of children were disabled, seeing small children in leg braces was a common sight. Some spent long periods in an iron lung which helped them breathe. And then came the vaccine.

I know currently vaccines are a controversial topic, but there are few who would argue that the polio vaccine is a bad thing (except some who believe it causes male sterility). It was Jonas Salk, the child of immigrants, who developed and produced the first widely used polio vaccine which virtually eradicated the terrible disease.

What do we see in his astrology? First, like the Dalai Lama last week, Salk had a Grand Trine in Water. Sun in Scorpio in the 12th, trine Saturn Pluto in Cancer in the 8th, trine Moon North Node in the 4th. Again, that watery expression of compassion, in this case through medicine and science, rather than spiritual teachings.

Furthermore, Salk was Scorpio rising (so a double Scorpio) with Mars, ruler of Scorpio on the Ascendant together with a perceptive, truth-seeking Mercury.

I have dreams, and I have nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.

His Pisces Moon conjunct his North Node suggests a life’s work (North Node) of compassion and healing (Pisces). The third point of the Trine was Saturn exactly conjunct Pluto, both at 2’ Cancer in the 8th, Scorpio’s house of death. His work would involve working with the forces of death. Uranus is conjunct Jupiter in Aquarius, giving a fine mind, innovation, brilliance, and sparks of genius (Uranus) as well as luck (Jupiter) and a collegiate, forward-thinking approach, (Aquarius). Notice there is no earth in his chart. This was an ideas man who, driven by compassion, sought to change the world.

‘As a child I was not interested in science. I was merely interested in things human, the human side of nature, if you like, and I continue to be interested in that.’

Salk was a brilliant child the son of Ashkenazi Jews. At 13, he won a place at a public school for intellectually gifted students, Townsend Harris High School, which offered bright children chance to attend a top private school based on merit and not their ability to pay. He flourished there and was known as a driven student (Mars) with a voracious thirst for learning. In that year, 1927, Neptune was conjunct his MC at 27’ Leo and Chiron was conjunct his Descendant.

Salk went on to study at Chemistry at City College of New York age 15 after skipping several grades. CCNY attracted poor families, the tuition was free, but competition to get a place was fierce. Pupils were super gifted and ambitious and that school produced eight Nobel prize winners and more PhDs than any other public college except for Berkley. He graduated in 1934 when Saturn was opposite his MC and Neptune was opposite his Chiron at 12’ Virgo. Notice, for both school there were Chiron and Neptune transits. Neptune rules his Moon, North Node and Chiron was also in Pisces conjunct Fortuna (good luck and his dharma).

The following year, 1935 Salk went to New York University to study medicine. NYU fees were low, but more importantly there was no discrimination against Jewish students, nearby medical schools such as Yale and Columbia had rigid quotas and restricted the number of Jewish students they accepted. Uranus was opposite his Sun at 4’ Taurus, putting him on his life-path (Sun) and Saturn was conjunct his Moon at 4’ Pisces, showing the rewards of his hard work (Saturn) and Jupiter, the planet of higher education was passing over his Ascendant, Mars, and Mercury, opening up his world. His goal was not to practice medicine,

‘My intention was to go to medical school, and then become a medical scientist. I did not intend to practice medicine, although in medical school, and in my internship, I did all the things that were necessary to qualify me in that regard. I had opportunities along the way to drop the idea of medicine and go into science. At one point at the end of my first year of medical school, I received an opportunity to spend a year in research and teaching in biochemistry, which I did. And at the end of that year, I was told that I could, if I wished, switch and get a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but my preference was to stay with medicine.’

This exemplifies the drive of Scorpio to understand, investigate and penetrate their area of study thoroughly. Salk knew his goal and intended to be entirely prepared at all levels to reach it. Jupiter, transiting Mercury in Scorpio shows a thirst for knowledge (Jupiter) of the darkest or deepest places (Scorpio) through study, lab-work, and analysis (Mercury). Saturn Pluto in Cancer shows his drive to help (Cancer) at the deepest levels (Pluto) meticulously (Saturn) and discover secrets or mysteries of life (8th house). Salk used both his fine intelligence and his deep mind to solve problems,

‘I think that there is both an art and a science to what we do. The art of science is as important as so-called technical science. You need both. It’s this combination that must be recognized and acknowledged and valued’.

Salk became interested in virology and in 1941 began working on the recently discovered influenza virus. He moved to do post-graduate research at the University of Michigan under Thomas Francis. They developed a vaccine which was later used by the army, Salk discovered and isolated one of the strains which was included in the vaccine. In 1941 Pluto was conjunct his Neptune at 2’ Leo and Saturn was transiting his Ascendant, Mars and Mercury by opposition. Transits to the Descendant often show important people arriving in your life and Thomas Francis was one such in Salk’s career. Saturn opposite Mars and Mercury in Scorpio shows massive hard work,

My life is pretty well at peace, and the profession is more of an avocation. It’s a calling, if you like, rather than a job. I do what I feel impelled to do, as an artist would. Scientists function in the same way. I see all these as creative activities, as all part of the process of discovery. Perhaps that’s one of the characteristics of what I call the evolvers, any subset of the population who keep things moving in a positive, creative, constructive way, revealing the truth and beauty that exists in life and in nature.

In 1947 Salk was given his own laboratory in the University of Pittsburgh but found the rules of the University restrictive, water likes to run free and Jupiter Uranus in Aquarius does things their own way. In 1948 he was contacted by Harry Weaver, the director of research at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (the name for polio) offering additional space, equipment, and researchers. Salk then built a working virology laboratory. In his research, Salk decided to use the safer ‘killed’ virus, instead of weakened forms of strains of the ‘live’ polio virus. Finally, on 2nd of July 1952 he gave the first injections to children. We don’t have the time for the first vaccination, but nevertheless the astrology is impressive.

First, notice the Moon Mars conjunction in Scorpio exactly conjunct Salk’s Sun at (4’15). Of course, the Moon will move slightly during the day, but it will remain in orb of the Sun. This, then is Salk’s life’s work (Sun) giving the jab (Mars) to heal a terrible illness caused by a virus, (Pluto ruler of Scorpio rules viruses). Notice also there is a Sun, Venus, Uranus conjunction in Cancer at 11’13’14’ of the sign. We don’t know the house, but Cancer is about protection and family and care, so we can take this as the caring for the children through a radical (Uranus) method. Notice Chiron at 9’ Capricorn, opposite these planets. The fame which the vaccine brought to Salk was a very mixed blessing. It enabled him to raise funds for his research and ultimately built the Salk institute as a type of Socratic Academy, to promote science and the humanities. But it also caused some jealousy and ill feeling among his colleagues who resented his fame, and Salk himself intensely disliked being in the public eye. Jupiter is at 14’ Taurus, conjunct Salk’s descendant, this would describe his fame (Jupiter) and the funds (Taurus) which came from it. Again, Jupiter on the descendant shows helpful, and in this case, wealthy, friends.

Salk became an overnight sensation when he announced on CBS radio 25.3.1955 his vaccine trials had been successful, two days later, he published his findings in the Journal of American Medical Association. Salk did not win the Nobel Prize or become a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The Nobel prize was given to researchers, Enders, Weller, and Robbins who developed a method of growing the polio virus in the lab to prepare Salk’s inactivated vaccine.

It is courage based on confidence, not daring, and it is confidence based on experience.’

                                                     On vaccinating his wife and three sons, 6th May1955.

Later a ‘live vaccine’ was developed by Bruce Sabin, which replaced Salk’s vaccine. However, when it was found that polio occasionally developed from this live vaccine, Salk’s once again became the vaccine of choice.

In 1957, Salk began to fulfil his second dream (Pisces) to create a collaborative (Jupiter Uranus in Aquarius) environment where researchers could explore the basic principles of life and contemplate the wider implications of their discoveries for the future of humanity (water trine). Salk was given 27 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean by the City of San Diego in 1960 (that Jupiter in Taurus in the vax chart). Salk engaged architect Louis Kahn to make ‘a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.’ Water has a finely developed sense of beauty and aesthetics, especially Pisces. The institute a stunning, both architecturally and scientifically trailblazing.

I couldn’t possibly have become a member of this institute if I hadn’t founded it myself.

The Salk institute opened in 1963 which was the year of his Chiron return, when Saturn transited his Jupiter, Uranus in Aquarius (a vision made concrete) and Jupiter went over his Sun, Ascendant, Mars and Mercury showing a new phase in his life, an expansion through luck and wealthy helpers (Jupiter) to fulfil his life’s work (Sun). Salk described it,

The Salk Institute is a curious place, not easily understood, and the reason for it is that this is a place in the process of creation. It is being created and is engaged in studies of creation. We cannot be certain what will happen here, but we can be certain it will contribute to the welfare and understanding of man.                                                             (

Currently, the Salk institute is working on, aging and regenerative medicine, immune system biology, plant biology amongst other subjects. Salk research provides new understanding and potential treatments for a range of diseases, from AIDS and Alzheimer’s to cancer and cardiovascular disorders. Discoveries by plant biologists are looking for ways to improve the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply and to addressing critical environmental problems, including global warming. (

Like the Dalai Lama, Salk’s energy, and determination has sent his vision out into the world to support and invest in cutting edge science, to alleviate suffering and heal our planet. Just as you would expect an evolved phlegmatic to do.

I look upon ourselves as partners in all of this, and that each of us contributes and does what he can do best. And so I see not a top rung and a bottom rung — I see all this horizontally — and I see this as part of a matrix. And I see every human being as having a purpose, a destiny, if you like. And what my hope is that we can find some way to fulfill the biological potential, if you like — the destiny that exists in each of us — and find ways and means to provide such opportunities for everyone. 

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