Edward Jenner and the Discovery of Vaccination

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Island 2

Edward Jenner

Note the background view of Berkeley, in Gloucestershire, where Jenner carried out his original vaccinations, with milkmaid and cow on show. Mezzotint by John Raphael Smith, from his pastel portrait exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1800, reproduced from W. R. Le Fanu, A bio-bibliography of Edward Jenner 1749-1823, London: Harvey and Blythe, 1951.

Edward Jenner, M.D., F.R.S.
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 the cow-pox
Third edition. London: printed for the author by D. N. Shury, 1801.

Jenner's Inquiry, first published in 1798, reported how, over a period of years, he had noticed the immunity provided by cow-pox, and how he decided deliberately to introduce the disease into a patient to see if the effect could be artificially produced. Soon afterwards, he would again inoculate his patients, this time with live smallpox virus ("variolation"), to see if the cow-pox had worked. The "healthy boy" whom Jenner, on May 14 1796, first vaccinated with virus from the dairymaid Sarah Nelmes was James Phipps, who proved Jenner's point by surviving repeated unsuccessful attempts to infect him with smallpox.

Case XI: William Stinchcomb

Part of Jenner's argument in the Inquiry was built up from cases like this one, recording Jenner's failure to inoculate or infect with small-pox itself ("variolate") a farmworker who some years before has caught a bad case of the cow-pox.

William Woodville, M.D., 1752-1805
Reports of a series of inoculations for the variolae vaccinae, or cow-pox; with remarks and observations on this disease, considered as a substitute for the small-pox
London: James Philips, 1799.

Soon after the publication of Jenner's case-studies, William Woodville carried out much more extensive trials of vaccination among patients in London. Woodville was Director of London Smallpox and Inoculation Hospital, and he kept detailed records on several thousand patients. Woodville, like Jenner himself, had close ties to Sir Joseph Banks, the influential long-time president of the Royal Society, and his support for vaccination was of great importance to its acceptance. As the cases shown here indicate, however, many of Woodville's inoculees developed the characteristic pustules across the body of genuine smallpox, and the "vaccine" used for his trials may in fact have been contaminated.

Samuel L. Mitchill, 1764-1831, ed.
The Medical Repository of original essays and intelligence relative to physic, surgery, chemistry and natural history.
New series, volume 1. New York: John Forbes, 1813.

An early American report on the inroads that vaccination rapidly made on disease rates in London, even with poorly-controlled vaccine sources.

Christian Charles Schieferdecker, M.D.
Dr. C. G. G. Nittinger's Evils of Vaccination.
Philadelphia: the editor, 1856.

Because of the lack of clear scientific explanation of its effects, the frequent side-effects, and contaminated vaccines, vaccination itself remained controversial throughout the nineteenth century. It certainly carried risks for the infants being vaccinated, and this volume, playing on parental fears, argued, inter alia, that vaccination was nonsensical, unscientific, criminal, and even sinful. Shown here is a satiric vignette of a protective mother's discussion with the family doctor.


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