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Edward Jenner


Born: 17 May 1749
Died: 26 January 1823
Birthplace: Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England
Best known as: English doctor who introduced smallpox vaccinations
Edward Jenner was an English physician who is credited with successfully introducing the practice of vaccinating against smallpox. Jenner, apprenticed to a surgeon as a boy, studied medicine briefly in London before returning to his rural hometown to open his own medical practice (1792). Following up on local lore that said dairymaids who had contracted cowpox were immune to smallpox, Jenner decided to see if he could adapt the Turkish practice of inoculation to prevent the spread and devastation of smallpox. In May of 1796 he took a gamble and inoculated James Phipps, the 8 year-old son of a local farmer. Phipps was exposed to fluid from the pustules of a woman with cowpox. The boy contracted cowpox, and several weeks later Jenner exposed him to smallpox. Fortunately, the boy didn't contract smallpox and Jenner's theory was proved correct. After other successful trials, Jenner published his findings in Inquiry into the Cause and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae in 1798. Jenner went on to become famous as the world embraced "vaccination," a term he coined (because vacca is Latin for cow, and vaccinia was the term for cowpox). Jenner was also an educated naturalist and horticulturist, an amateur geologist and zoologist (he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society for a paper on the nesting habits of the cuckoo) and a fossil hunter who discovered the bones of a plesiosaur in 1819.

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