Smallpox Inoculation and the Royal Society, 1700–1723

  • Margaret DeLacy

Abstract

DeLacy provides a political and professional context for the introduction of smallpox inoculation into England, including the involvement of the Royal Society and the inaction of the College of Physicians. She shows how the Puritan minister Cotton Mather was influenced by his religious values and by his reading of Joan Baptista Van Helmont, Richard Bradley, and Benjamin Marten to introduce inoculation in Boston. She analyzes the way support for inoculation in Britain divided along religious and political lines and summarizes the impact of inoculation on ideas about disease transmission.

Keywords

Malaria Bark Measle Peru Folk 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Genevieve Miller, The Adoption of Inoculation for Smallpox in England and France (Philadelphia: 1957), 30. See also Donald R. Hopkins, Princes and Peasants: Smallpox in History (Chicago and London: 1983).Google Scholar
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    Richard Shryock, “Germ Theories in Medicine Prior to 1870,” Clio Medica (1972) 7:81–109. Erasmus Darwin also inoculated for measles and found the same thing.Google Scholar
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    Mullett, “Cattle Distemper,” 163, and see Daniel Peter Layard, “A Discourse on the Usefulness of Inoculation of the Horned Cattle to Prevent the Contagious Distemper among Them,” Philosophical Transactions 1683–1775 (1757–58) 50:528–38. There were reports that the Turks had tried inoculation against plague as well as smallpox. See Larry Stewart, “The Edge of Utility: Slaves and Smallpox in the Early Eighteenth Century,” Medical History (1985) 29:54–70, on 69. See also the English abstract of C. Huygelen, “Attempts to Inoculate against Plague.” An English doctor, “Mr. White,” attempted to inoculate himself and four assistants with plague in 1801; all five died within days.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    According to most accounts, John Hunter injected himself with venereal disease, possibly causing his fatal heart disease, but there is some question as to whether he injected himself or someone else. In the nineteenth century, French physicians also experimented with inoculation for syphilis. Deborah Hayden, Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis (New York: 2003), 29–31, notes that “inoculation experiments involved felons and prostitutes, the most likely subjects, but also servants and even children and infants … Doctors began to infect … everything living: themselves, their students, chimpanzees, monkeys, horses, rabbits, cats, and rats.” She adds that Philippe Ricord, a French syphilologist, inoculated 2500 people with gonorrhea between 1835 and 1838 and Albert Neisser injected a group of prostitutes as young as ten years old with syphilis serum in 1895.Google Scholar
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    Rusnock, Vital Accounts, 114. Although the project was unsuccessful at the time, scientists have gone back to the weather reports of Jurin’s correspondents, and especially that of Nicolaas Cruquius, for information about climate change. See A. F. V. van Engelen and H. A. M. Geuirts, “Nicholaus Cruquius (16781754) and His Meteorological Observations” (De Bilt: 1985), Koinklijk Nederlands Meterologisch Institut, online at http://www.knmi.nl/bibliotheek /knmipubmetnummer/knmipub165_IV.pdf.Google Scholar

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© Margaret DeLacy 2016

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