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Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner (May 17, 1749 - January 26, 1823) was an English country doctor practicing in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England, made famous by his invention of the vaccine.

By Jenner's time, the practice of smallpox inoculation had become commonplace in England. However it had a major disadvantage: until the infection from inoculation had run its course, the subject was infected, and infectious, with actual smallpox. This made them a risk to any family or acquaintances not already immune.

There was a local folk tradition amongst those who milked cows, that an infection with the so-called `cowpox' protected one from contracting smallpox. (It has been theorized that the romantic image of the beautiful milkmaid came from the fact that milkmaids often contracted cowpox, and would thereafter be immune to the disfigurement of smallpox.)

Cowpox was harmless compared to smallpox and Jenner realised that if the folk tradition were true it offered considerable advantages over the use of smallpox in inoculation. On May 14, 1796, he tested cowpox, infecting an eight year old boy named James Phipps in the same manner as used in smallpox inoculation, but using material from a cowpox pustule. The boy contracted cowpox, and after six weeks, recovered safely. Jenner then applied the standard smallpox inoculation; the boy was completely unaffected, showing that cowpox had made him immune to smallpox.

Jenner called his method vaccination, as the original infective material came from a cow (Vacca is Latin for a cow). His work was published as "An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a Disease Known by the Name of Cow Pox" in 1798. The term virus was introduced in the work aforementioned.

Jenner realised the long-term implications of vaccination, and looked foward to the day when smallpox would no longer be a threat anywhere on earth; his dream eventually reached fruition with the global eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s.

He studied anatomy and surgery under the guidance of John Hunter, a prominent surgeon in London, then returned to Berkeley to start a practice.

James Phipps' house in Berkeley is now the Jenner Museum.

One of Jenner's interests was hot air ballooning[?]. Together with the owner of Berkeley Castle, he made a successful flight to nearby Stroud. The spot where the balloon descended is today the location of the "Air Balloon" public house.

Jenner is included in the 2002 100 Greatest Britons" poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public.

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