How Edward Jenner cured smallpox

Edward Jenner, smallpox, cowpox, vaccine, James Phipps, 1796, birthday, 17 May, 1749

Edward Jenner is known the the Father of the Vaccine, but how did it come about?

Smallpox was a deadly killer up until the late 1700s. It was a vicious disease that caused painful and blistered rashes, as well as fever and headaches and eventually death in 30 per cent of cases.

Cowpox was a similar strain of virus but much less deadly. Dr Edward Jenner happened to notice that milkmaids, who worked all day with cows, got cowpox, but didn’t seem to get the dreaded smallpox.

His theory ran that cowpox was a less potent form of smallpox and that if you contracted the lesser disease, it made you stronger and more able to resist when smallpox came calling.

He tested it out by injected an eight year old boy called James Phipps with pus drawn from a milkmaid who had smallpox and later managed to prove that Phipps was now immune to smallpox.

Despite finding resistance to his idea, primarily from religious groups, his idea was eventually accepted and vaccines became widespread and the last case of smallpox finally was eradicated in 1977.

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