Inoculation was introduced in Boston by Dr. Zabdiel Boylston (Fig. 1) during the 1721 epidemic [11, 12]. Dr. Boylston was the first American-born surgeon in the colonies and a pioneer in his vocation . The Rev. Cotton Mather (Fig. 2), who had heard about the procedure from his West African servant-slave Onesimus and read extensively about the method, convinced Boylston to start inoculations during the smallpox outbreak of 1721.
The procedure was initially met with outrage and anger by the community, mainly because it was considered dangerous and could kill. The clergy was strong in their opposition; they thought smallpox was God’s way to punish sinful people, and trying to prevent the malady was to interfere in God’s plans. The local populace became polarized, and angry words and threats were flying in the newspapers  (Fig. 3), not unlike what we see today.
Indeed, so strong was the opposition to inoculation that Boylston had to go into hiding. Despite that, he was arrested. On one occasion, his wife and children were threatened by a hand-grenade thrown into their home. Mather also got into trouble. His home was firebombed with a message attached to the missile reading: “Cotton Mather, You Dog, Dam you, I’ll inoculate you with this, with a Pox to you.” .
Boylston sailed to London in 1725 to give a report before the Royal Society about the inoculations he had performed in Boston 1721 and 1722 . A couple of years later, he published the results of only six deaths among 247 inoculated individuals (a mortality of 2.4%, almost ten times lower than among unprotected people) .
The interest for the inoculations performed in the colonies was great in the motherland. In 1759, Benjamin Franklin responded to a request from Dr. William Heberden of London for an update by reporting the results from a new smallpox outbreak in Boston in the early 1750s . He reported that among 5059 un-inoculated white people, 452 had died (a death rate of 8.9%), whereas among 1974 inoculated individuals, only 23 (1.2%) had died. The corresponding mortality rates among blacks were 12.8% and 5.0%, respectively.
When it was time for the 1764 epidemic to hit, inoculation had become more accepted. Governor Bernard ordered the formation of a group of doctors to arrange for inoculation of Bostonians. Boston Gazette advertised on March 5 that inoculations would be available—free of charge for those who could not pay—from that day until the mid of May .