Dr. Edward Jenner
Table Of Contents:
The man that saved millions of lives
Dr. Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire in England on May 17th, 1749.
Both of Dr. Edward Jenner’s parents died when he was five years old and he was cared for by his elder brother.
After medical training as a young man in London and a period as an army surgeon, Dr. Edward Jenner spent the rest of his life as a country doctor back home in Gloucestershire.
In 1796 Dr. Jenner was intrigued by a local story that claimed milkmaids never caught smallpox if they had previously contracted cowpox (a mild relative of smallpox).
Smallpox had been noted as far back as 1200 BC where an Egyptian mummy was found to have signs of the disease.
Dr. Edward Jenner experimented with an 8-year-old boy called James Phipps (his gardener’s son) by making a scratch on his arm and placing some puss from a patients cowpox sore into the wound. The boy had a mild case of cowpox as expected and fully recovered.
About 6 weeks later Dr. Jenner then infected James with the smallpox virus in the same way and he did not catch the disease.
After conducting this experiment on 23 different people he concluded that those who had suffered cowpox were indeed immune to smallpox.
Dr. Edward Jenner called this new method ‘vaccination‘ which means ‘from a cow‘ in Latin, as a way of distinguishing it from the process of ‘inoculation’ and thus he became the man who created the vaccination against smallpox, (sometimes known as the jennerian vaccine).
Dr. Jenner vaccinated his own son several times, the boy eventually died of TB.
Edward Jenner’s research was based on careful case studies and clinical observation more than a hundred years before scientists could explain how a virus worked .
Smallpox had previously killed millions (possibly billions) of people worldwide and Dr. Jenner’s vaccine ultimately led to the complete eradication of smallpox worldwide.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Because of the lack of a clear scientific explanation of its effects and some side-effects, vaccination itself remained controversial throughout the nineteenth century.
It certainly carried risks for the infants being vaccinated.
Playing on parental fears many argued that vaccination was nonsensical, unscientific, criminal, and even sinful.
Smallpox first appeared in England in 1240 and spread throughout Europe from there. The majority of smallpox victims were children. Many died and those who survived were left severely disfigured and\or blind.
Dr. Edward Jenner’s general idea was not new. In China and at the time in Turkey the practice of inoculating children with a small dose of smallpox was used, but it proved painful and dangerous.
The Turkish inoculation idea was brought to England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who had her own children inoculated this way.
Two of the Prince of Wales' children were also inoculated at the time. They both survived the disease.
Inoculation in this way never caught on as it was a dreadfully painful for the patient and took weeks to fully recover and it was not without risk as some people died from this mild dose or became carriers of the disease.
In 1798 Dr. Edward Jenner published his findings and submitted them to the Royal Society who refused to publish them because of opposition to vaccination from some doctors.
They opposed vaccination because they were suspicious of new ideas and were accustomed to using the old inoculation method. However, Jenner did have some support as members of the Royal Family were vaccinated and vaccination soon became widely accepted abroad.
In 1802 Dr. Jenner was eventually awarded a grant of £10,000 by the government and then a further £20,000 in 1806.
Vaccination later became free for all infants in 1840 and Jenners smallpox vaccine became compulsory in Britain in 1853.
Dr. Edward Jenner has at times been ostracised for his work, for example risking the lives of James Phipps and his own son.
You could argue that this type of medical experiment was widespread and accepted at the time and few breakthroughs in medicine would have been made so quickly due to the lack of technology in that era,
Whatever your view is, there can be no argument that Edward Jenner left a great legacy to Public health, virology, immunology and the end to a grotesque and deadly disease and as a result saving millions of lives and lots of suffering.
In 1980, as a result of Dr. Edward Jenner’s discovery, the World Health Assembly officially declared “the world and its peoples” free from endemic smallpox.
Dr. Edward Jenner died on Jan 26th, 1823.
An estimated 300 to 500 million people died of smallpox in the 20th century alone!
Related posts you might be interested in Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
Dr. Edward Jenner-The man that saved millions of lives (c) 2016 aeef.net v2.1