Edward Jenner Biography

Edward Jenner (May 17, 1749 – January 26, 1823). A doctor and scientist of British origin, who discovered the smallpox vaccine, while laying the scientific foundation for vaccination.


His discovery made him save millions of lives around the world, returning to the immune population in the face of one of the great scourges, which since ancient times had decimated populations or left survivors scarred for life, which is why Edward Jenner is considered one of the most important and influential physicians in history.

Early Life

Edward Jenner was born on 17 May 1749, in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. He was the vicar’s fourth son, Reverend Jenner. However, when he was just five years old, he lost his father, coming under the protection of his older brother, who was also a clergyman.

At the age of thirteen he began as an apprentice to surgeon Daniel Lodlow. In 1770, at the age of fourteen, he began his medical studies at St George’s Hospital, located in London, where he had the opportunity to study under the tutelage of the famous surgeon John Hunter, who would become his mentor and his lifelong friend.

Parallel to his studies in medicine, Edward Jenner independently studied Geology and Zoology, which gave him in 1773 the opportunity to set sail as a naturalist on Captain Cook’s second expedition across the Pacific, which he refused to move to his hometown, where he wished to practice as a doctor.

Since his arrival in Berkeley he was respected and admired by its inhabitants, due to his dedicated care for patients. In 1778 he married Catherine Kingscoke, with whom he would have three children, and became one of his greatest collaborators.

Smallpox vaccine

At that time, smallpox was a highly chontagious disease, causing thousands of deaths throughout Europe and Asia. Its name came from the Latin “varius” (variopinto) named after the numerous pustules that came out on the skin of the sick, which caused scars, which disfigured the survivors for life.

It was first described by the ancient Persian, Razes (865-925) and is believed to have been known in the East for millennia. In Europe alone, Smallpox had been responsible for the deaths of at least ten percent of the population during the 18th century.

Determined to end this scourge, Edward Jenner took the task of studying the behavior of this disease, discovering that there was a belief that dairy women, who had previously suffered from smallpox vaccine did not develop the Smallpox.

This type of smallpox appeared to be a milder type of smallpox that affected cows, causing pustules in the udders, which was sometimes infected with women, whose craft was milking, producing the same rashes on their hands and some discomforts.

Edward Jenner decided to systematically collect medical information from all people who had been infected with this species of vaccine smallpox, discovering that none had subsequently been infected with the terrible smallpox disease: it was had become immune.

In order to prove his theory, on 14 May 1796, Jenner conducted an experiment by which he took a sample of one of the pustules of smallpox vaccine from the hand of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes and inserted it into the body of an eight-year-old, named James Phippes, through two skin incisions.

At seven days the child showed severe pain in the axillary region, accompanied on the ninth day with severe fever and headache. However, on the tenth day he had fully recovered. Edward Jenner then inserted into the body of James Phippes, a sample of an infected smallpox pustule, through several skin punctures, made in both arms. The child did not develop the disease.

In 1797, Janner sent a report with his studies and results to the Royal Society, which did not accept his finding, on the grounds of needing further evidence. Fact that did nothing to discourage Janner, who experimented next year with many more children, even with his own eleven-month-old son.

In 1798 the results of his studies were finally published by the Royal Society, under the title of Research on the causes and effects of smallpox vaccine, since then coining the term vaccine to refer to his method of inoculation.

Final years

Jenner’s treatment had many detractors, including the London Medical Association and the Church, arguing that it was terrible to infect a human with an animal’s disease. However, vaccination was imposed through a significant reduction in the disease and the protection of patients from it.

Jenner devoted the rest of his life to advising and promoting the dissemination of vaccination. In 1792 a doctorate at the University of St. Andrews, and in 1821 he was appointed extraordinary physician to King George IV.

Finally, after years of dedication to medicine, he died on January 26, 1823, at the age of seventy-three. In 1979, the World Health Organization declared the extinction of smallpox, which would have been impossible without the valuable input of this scientist, who is also considered the person who has saved the most lives in the course of humanity.

Image source: biografiasyvidas.com

Edward Jenner Biography
Source: Education  
July 31, 2019


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