Edward Jenner’s Role in the Introduction of Smallpox Vaccine

  • Derrick Baxby


Although Jenner’s name is universally linked with smallpox vaccination, there had always been controversy about his role in its introduction, with over-enthusiastic supporters provoking those who would minimise his influence. Critics include those who advance the claims of earlier “discoveries” of vaccination, those who believe Jenner’s vaccine was merely attenuated smallpox virus and that he simply employed a safe type of variolation (smallpox inoculation), and those who maintain that others did the bulk of the work, which established vaccination [1, 2]. Assessments of Jenner have varied from simple country doctor to genius by ­supporters and from misguided fool to deliberate deceiver by critics. The centenary of his first vaccination was marked by particularly partisan views [3], and the bicentenary provided an opportunity to attempt a more objective assessment. The original literature is not cited; it has been analysed elsewhere in some detail [4, 5]. Jenner performed his first vaccination on May 14, 1796, 3 days before his 47th birthday. As an experienced physician and surgeon trained in London, by John Hunter, he had a general practice in the Vale of Berkeley and a consultant practice in Cheltenham, to which his London friends referred patients who visited the ­fashionable spa. He had been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1789 for his observations on the habits of the newly-hatched cuckoo. Thus, although he preferred country life, he was a well-trained and respected doctor-scientist with a wide circle of interests and friends.


Septic Lesion Smallpox Inoculation Smallpox Vaccine Smallpox Virus Safe Type 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derrick Baxby
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical MicrobiologyLiverpool UniversityLiverpoolUK

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