“For thousands of years, smallpox was one of the world’s most dreaded scourges.” (Saffer, 8) During the Golden Age of Microbiology, Edward Jenner discovered and created the Smallpox vaccination. Jenner’s vaccination stopped a worldwide virus. “He endured years of ridicule by people who thought he was wrong. But through his vaccinations, he saved millions of lives.”(Ollhoff, 21)
“One of the deadliest diseases known to humans, it is also the only disease to have been eradicated by vaccination.”(The College of Physcians of Philadelphia) Smallpox is caused by the Variola major and minor virus and is grouped with orthopoxviruses. Smallpox is highly contagious among humans (it has no effect on animals). It is carried among people through the air. Transportation of the virus from one person to the next includes coughing, sneezing, talking/saliva, and pus leakage from open or busted pustules. The virus also lived on bedding, clothing, dead scabs, fallen skin, and had a resistance to cold/fair weather conditions. Smallpox symptoms include burning rash, vomiting, headache, break outs of small pus filled pustules, smell of rotting flesh, scars, blindness, fever, flesh falling/rotting off, and extreme to mild pain. “By the twentieth century, hundreds of millions of people have died as a result of smallpox.”(Saffer, 8) In 1979 the World Health Organization announced smallpox had been eliminated. However, to date, there are still two samples of Variola virus in containment for further scientist observation; one in the United States and the second in the Soviet Union.
Edward Jenner was born on May 17, 1749, in Berkeley, England. He was orphaned at age 5 and was therefore sent to live with his older brother. Ironically, in 1757 when a small pox epidemic broke out in the area that he was living in, Jenner and other children were inoculated by a local pharmacist against smallpox. Inoculation at this time was very long and tedious and sometimes last six to eight weeks. He did not fully recover from the inoculation for another month. At age thirteen he was apprenticed to a country surgeon and apothecary. According to my understanding this meant that he was an apprentice to a country herbalist. In 1764, Jenner began a new apprenticeship with George Harwicke. While working with George Harwicke, Jenner was able to advance his knowledge in surgical practices. At the age of twenty one, Jenner went to London and became a student of John Hunter, a well known and respected surgeon. As a student in London he further studied geology, carried out experiments on human blood, researched various animals, birds, and hot air balloons. In addition to his training with Dr. Hunter and experience in biology with Captain Cook, Jenner made great progress in clinical surgery! “Jenner devised an improved method for preparing a medicine known as tartar emetic (potassium antimony tartrate).”(Riedel) In 1773 Jenner returned to his hometown of Berkley to practice medicine as a traveling physician.
In an effort to refrain from plagerizing I have included the following paragraph depicting Edward Jenner's first vaccination. “While Jenner's interest in the protective effects of cowpox began during his apprenticeship with George Harwicke, it was not until 1796 before he made the first step in the long process whereby smallpox, would be totally eradicated. For many years, he had heard the tales that dairymaids were protected from smallpox naturally after having suffered from cowpox. Pondering this, Jenner concluded that cowpox not only protected against smallpox but also could be transmitted from one person…