Salk Institute


Nearing its first half‐century of research, the Salk Institute has risen to prominence among major research Institutes in the life sciences. The location, the very favourable working conditions and the Institute's growing reputation have attracted outstanding scientists, both young and old. Jonas Salk and the architect, Louis Kahn, worked together to achieve a unique design, and the result has made the Institute a mecca for the student of twentieth century architecture. Although some restraint was put on Salk's broad vision for the Institute's research agenda by his eminent advisers, Salk had Kahn revise his vision of the kind of facilities the scientists would need. The final result embodied a more limited plan than Kahn had originally envisaged. Both functionally and visually the design and character of the buildings have proved remarkably successful.

Keywords: Jonas Salk; Salk Institute; Louis Kahn; La Jolla; Francis Crick; Jacob Bronowski; history of research institutes; twentieth century architecture

Figure 1.

The Salk Institute. View from the pool. (© Robert Olby.)

Figure 2.

Fellows of the Salk Institute with President Frederick de Hoffmann (7th from the left). (© The Salk Institute 1975).



Crick FHC (1967) Letter to Jonas Salk, January 19, 1967. Cited in Olby R (2009) see further reading.

Steele J (2002) Salk Institute: Louis I Kahn. London: Phaidon Press.

Further Reading

Biographies of Salk give little attention if any to their subject's work in La Jolla and the Salk Institute. But Professor Suzanne Bourgeois is writing a full history based on detailed archival work. She is Director of the Regulatory Laboratory at the Salk Institute. See the web page: Also:, and

Frampton K (1995) Studies in Tectonic Culture: The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture. Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press.

Kahn L (1971) In: Yukio F (ed.) Global Architecture, vol. 5. (Richards Medical Research Building, Pennsylvania, 1961: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, California, 1965; text by Fumihiko Maki).

Kluger J (2004) A Splendid Solution. Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio. New York: Putnam's Sons.

Olby R (2009) Francis Crick. Hunter of Life's Secrets. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. (Chapter 18).

Ridley M (2006) Francis Crick. Discoverer of the Genetic Code. London: Harper Collins.

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How to Cite close
Olby, Robert(Dec 2011) Salk Institute. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003558]