Biography of Edward Jenner

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Biography of Edward Jenner

Jenner, Edward (1749-1823), an English physician of Gloucestershire.

Young Jenner went to London and studied medicine with the celebrated

anatomist, John Hunter, in whose family he lived for two years. On

returning to his native Berkeley he gave his attention to the plague

of smallpox permanently prevalent in all parts of the country.

Starting with the hint given by the dairymen that those who had

acquired cowpox by milking cows were not subject to smallpox, Dr.

Jenner investigated the matter and formulated a regular plan of giving

cowpox as a vaccination for the more dangerous pox. He had the courage

even to vaccinate his own child. In 1798 he published his method of

vaccination. His method was adopted for the British Army.

The year 1996 marked the two hundredth anniversary of Edward Jenner's

first experimental vaccination--that is, inoculation with the related

cow-pox virus to build immunity against the deadly scourge of


Edward Jenner (1749-1823), after training in London and a period as an

army surgeon, spent his whole career as a country doctor in his native

county of Gloucestershire in the West of England. His research was

based on careful case-studies and clinical observation more than a

hundred years before scientists could explain the viruses themselves.

So successful did his innovation prove that by 1840 the British

government had banned alternative preventive treatments against

smallpox. "Vaccination," the word Jenner invented for his treatment

(from the Latin vacca, a cow), was adopted by Pasteur for immunization

against any disease.

In the eighteenth century, before Jenner, smallpox was a killer

disease, as widespread as cancer or heart disease in the twentieth

century but with the difference that the majority of its victims were

infants and young children. In 1980, as a result of Jenner's

discovery, the World Health Assembly officially declared "the world

and its peoples" free from endemic smallpox.

Edward Jenner and the Discovery of Vaccination


Mortality from smallpox

This table, from the Encyclopedia Metropolitana (London 1844), shows

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