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England's Dr. Edward Jenner and a Vaccination for Smallpox

Dr Paul McDonough MD

A spine surgeon by profession, Paul W. McDonough, MD, has practiced at Orthopedic Associates of Abilene in Texas since 2001. In his free time, Dr. Paul W. McDonough enjoys reading medical journals and learning about English history.

In 1796, Dr. Edward Jenner of Gloucestershire, England, undertook a medical experiment that introduced a new concept to Western medicine. He had been listening to local folk wisdom, which held that milkmaids did not contract smallpox, which at the time terrified the population for its ability to kill or disfigure those who caught it. Dr. Jenner had noticed that although these milkmaids did not acquire smallpox, they did fall victim to a milder disease known as cowpox.

Dr. Jenner extracted pus from the blisters of a young woman who had contracted cowpox from milking an infected cow. He then made a scratch on the skin of eight-year-old James Phipps and introduced the pus into the wound, where a blister quickly arose. After young Master Phipps recovered, Dr. Jenner used the same technique to introduce exudates of smallpox, and the boy did not become ill.

This experiment led to widespread adoption of Dr. Jenner's technique across Europe. This not only brought about a dramatic reduction in outbreaks of smallpox, but also to the development of vaccinations for other diseases and more advanced types of vaccinations for smallpox.

 

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