, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 213-227
Date: 03 Mar 2011

Iconography and Wax Models in Italian Early Smallpox Vaccination

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Abstract

Luigi Sacco (1769–1863) was the main protagonist of early vaccination campaign in Italy. He found a native source of vaccine lymph: with that, he personally vaccinated more than 500,000 people and furnished all Italy and some Middle East countries too. Starting from the pictures of his books, Sacco proposed to create wax models of “real” and “spurious” smallpox pustules in human, cow, sheep and horse; just to permit, not only to doctors, but also to all other health operators, the identification of the right pustules from where to extract active lymph for vaccination. In the Museum of Pathological Anatomy of the Padua University Medical School, we have four anatomical waxes which corresponded exactly to the explicative pictures in 1809 Sacco’s treatise on Vaccine. We have found the same models also at the University of Milan, Pavia and Bologna—the main cities of “Cisalpine Republic”, the state of North Italy formed at the epoch of Sacco following the Napoleon conquest. The history of the diffusion of these models presented in this text will be a starting point to develop wider questions. In particular, this history could be useful to improve our understanding of the birth of scientific and experimental medicine through XIX and XX Century.