History of Immunisation

By Paul

In 1717, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote a letter to her friend describing how she had witnessed the practice of smallpox inoculation in Constantinople. This involved the transfer of material from a smallpox postule into multiple cuts made in a vein. Lady Montagu had lost her brother to smallpox and was amazed that the Middle Eastern practice of inoculation rendered the fatal disease harmless. In Britain, the practice was unknown.

Inoculation was an early attempt at creating immunity to disease, but was later dismissed when Edward Jenner pioneered immunisation through vaccination in 1796. Vaccination was hailed a huge success. Napoleon described it as the greatest gift to mankind, but it met unexpected opposition after it was made compulsory in Britain in 1853.

How did a Gloucestershire country surgeon become known as the father of vaccination? Why did the British government introduce compulsory smallpox vaccination in 1853? What were the consequences of those who opposed it? And how was the disease finally eradicated?

Listen to latest podcast of the BBC’s In Our Time program to get the answers.

Related Links:

- Smallpox- online exhibit at UCLA

- Edward Jenner Museum

- Smallpox: eradicating the scourge

- The first physician to differentiate between smallpox and measles- Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi (?850-923)

- An earlier post on the role of personalities in medical breakthroughs

- Speeches by Nobel laureates; How to Win a Nobel Prize and How Advances in Science are made (webcasts at Singapore National University)


# What is immunization? (There is a glossary at the bottom of the page on the second website) Check wrote:

# What is immunization? (There is a glossary at the bottom of the page on the second website) Check your own textbook if you need to.
# How was immunization discovered even before the world knew about the cause of disease by viruses, bacteria etc.?
# What is the cowpox and smallpox story?
# Who was the first doctor recognized for his vaccination work?
# One of his `experiments’ would not be allowed today. What happened?
# Do you think the doctor's action was unethical?
# What are some of the scientific advances that allowed knowledge about immunization to increase suddenly in the 20th century?
# What are some diseases you have been immunized against? (See the bottom section on the first website)
# (a) Why do some members of the public dislike the idea of vaccination? (b) There are oral vaccines - that is no jab! Which disease can be prevented with an oral vaccine?

-- August 8, 2006 10:38 PM

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