Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) was a doctor in England who is well known for discovering a vaccine against smallpox.

I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox. I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face.

The key parts of Jenner’s story include:

  • milkmaids – Jenner had heard that people who worked regularly with cows, including milkmaids, usually didn’t get smallpox
  • cowpox – milkmaids did get cowpox, with pocks on their hands from infected udders, but they didn’t get pocks from smallpox on their face, and Jenner suspected the cowpox infection protected them from smallpox
  • Sarah Nelmes – a milkmaid who had cowpox and came to Jenner for treatment and became the source of cowpox virus for Jenner’s experiments
  • Blossom – Sarah Nelmes’ cow that was infected with cowpox
  • James Phipps – an 8-year-old boy and son of Jenner’s gardener who was the first (in 1796) to become inoculated with cowpox to see if it would protect him from smallpox – it did!
  • Royal Society – the national academy of science which rejected Jenner’s initial paper describing his cowpox experiment with Phipps and others
  • Jenner’s Inquiry – a booklet, An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a disease discovered in some of the western counties of England, particularly Gloucestershire and Known by the Name of Cow Pox, that he published in 1798

And although many doubted his work, Jenner’s vaccination eventually replaced the previous method of protection – variolation.

And even more importantly, Jenner’s vaccine eventually eradicated smallpox!

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