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Discovery of Smallpox Vaccine

Biology | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod, Interactive

Who discovered Smallpox Vaccine?

The smallpox vaccine was discovered by an English scientist Edward Anthony Jenner from Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Jenner was born in England on the 17th of May 1749.
The disease smallpox created misery as it was fatal and there was no cure for it. It is thanks to Edward Jenner that we are able to live today without the fear of this disease which has been eradicated.

Where did the Smallpox come from?

How this disease came about has been lost in the prehistoric period but it said to have appeared around 10,000BC. It is said to have spread into India through Egyptian merchants. Skin lesions resembling smallpox have been found on Egyptian mummies.

Smallpox was known to have affected all levels of society and a large number of people lost their lives to this fatal disease.

How did Edward Jenner find the Vaccine for Smallpox?

Jenner had heard that milkmaids were protected from the disease smallpox after having suffered cowpox which was prevalent then. He thus concluded that cowpox could help stop the spread of smallpox.

He used matter from the lesions of a maid suffering from cowpox and inoculated an 8 yr old boy. The boy developed mild fever and some discomfort. Nine days later he felt cold, lost appetite but improved and became much better the following day. Two months later Jenner inoculated the boy again from a fresh smallpox lesion but the boy did not develop the disease.

He communicated his observations to the Royal Society which rejected them. He then published a small booklet privately and called his new procedure vaccination.

Jenner’s vaccination received public acknowledgement in 1802 with the British Parliament granting him sums of money. He received many honours but was subjected to ridicule as well. This did not deter him from working with his vaccination programme. His was the first scientific attempt using vaccination to control an infectious disease.

First person to Vaccinate against Smallpox

Benjamin Jesty is being considered as the first person to vaccinate against smallpox. Jenner they say was not the first to vaccinate but gave the vaccination its scientific recognition. Jesty to protect his family from smallpox used material from the udders of cattle that he knew had cowpox and transferred the material into his wife’s arm.

Click here to know more about What is a vaccination and how does it work.