Tuesday, May 17, 2022

May 17: Edward Jenner, English physician and scientist


Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was an English physician and scientist who, in creating the first smallpox vaccine, pioneered the very concept of vaccines themselves. The "father of immunology," he is a hero. In his day, smallpox was killing around 10% of the population, and as high as 20% in more densely-populated areas (towns and cities) where infection spread more easily. Had he lived today, however, he could probably not have accomplished this feat: he tested his hypothesis by injecting pus acquired from a woman with cowpox into both arms of an eight-year-old boy, the son of his gardener. The boy suffered a fever, but no full-blown infection. He then twice exposed the boy to a weakened ("variolated") form of smallpox, and he showed no signs of the disease. Jenner went on to great scientific and political achievements, and died of a stroke at 73.


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