|Edward Jenner (1749–1823).
Photo courtesy of the
National Library of Medicine.
You wouldn’t want to have the need for surgery because chances are that you wouldn’t get it (they rarely performed surgical operations) and you’d die, or you would get it and you’d die, or if you were that sick you’d just want to be left alone to die. Medicine is one of those things that I wouldn’t want to give up if I could escape into Regency England (one of my favorite eras) for a year or so.
Did you know that Edward Jenner discovered the vaccine for smallpox in late 18th century England? I doubt many high school students know about smallpox today unless they watch movies on bioterrorism, etc. Isn’t it scary that a disease that was virtually wiped out by 1977 could be resurrected for horrifying purposes?
Jenner used the pus and infectious matter of a dairymaid’s cowpox to inoculate a small boy in 1796. Do you want to know what that looked like? Probably not but I’ll tell you. He scraped inside nasty looking wounds on Sarah Nelm’s (dairymaid’s) hand and arm, gathered the infection, created two small incisions in the boy’s (James Phipps) arm and spread the pus into the incisions. You can read more here about the method of variolation here.
From Wikipedia, Jenner's Theory:
The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called "the grease", which was transferred to cows by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox.More here. For more on the great and terrible scourge go here.
Did you know the history of smallpox inoculation? Did any of this surprise you? Brings a whole new meaning to the saying, "A pox upon you!" Of course in that day if they didn't mean smallpox they probably meant syphilis. That's another post.
From an etching by James Gillray (1757-1815) 1802 caricature of Jenner vaccinating patients who feared it would make them sprout cowlike appendages. From Wikipedia.