Edward Jenner (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: By discovering the vaccination as a preventive measure against smallpox, Jenner pioneered the concept of using a modified form of a disease to produce immunity.
Edward Jenner was born on May 17, 1749, into an upper-middle-class family in Berkeley, England. His mother was the daughter of a clergyman, Henry Head; his father was the Reverend Stephen Jenner, a graduate of Oxford and the Anglican rector of Berkeley. Edward was the third and youngest son. His two older brothers, Stephen and Henry, became clergymen. He had three younger sisters, Mary, Sarah, and Ann; the youngest, Ann, was married to a clergyman.
In 1754, Edward’s father died. Stephen took over as rector at Berkeley and became head of the family, supervising the education of his younger brothers and sisters. When he was about eight years old, Edward was sent to school at Wotton-under-Edge, a village near Berkeley, under the tutorship of the Reverend Mr. Clissold. Later, he was sent to Cirencester to study with another scholarly but rigidly strict clergyman, Dr. Charles Washbourn. The young Jenner was instructed in religion, history, Greek, and Latin but was most interested in reading books on scientific topics and collecting bird nests, dormouse nests, insects, and fossils in the hills and meadows surrounding the school.
In 1767, at age thirteen, Edward was sent to Sodbury, about fifteen miles from...
(The entire section is 2359 words.)
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Jenner, Edward (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
Edward Jenner (1749823) was a British family doctor who practiced throughout his life in the village of Berkeley, Gloucestershire. He apprenticed for two years with John Hunter, then the preeminent medical teacher in Britain, but never took any examinations to obtain a medical degree. Instead, he purchased a medical degree from a Scottish university and later applied for and was granted an M.D. degree from Oxford University. He was keenly interested in all aspects of natural history, and he wrote a notebook describing the habits and habitats of birds in his district. A man with considerable intellectual and leadership qualities, he also founded a local medical society that survived for many generations.
At the time of Jenner's birth, smallpox was an ever present threat to life and health. When it did not kill outright, it often left a legacy of disfiguring facial pockmarks, and if it affected the eyes it caused blindness.
The practice of variolationnoculation into the skin, or insufflation into the nose, of dried secretions from a smallpox blebas invented in China around 1000 C.E. and spread along the silk route, reaching Asia Minor some time in the seventeenth century. Lady Mary Wortley Montague, wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, described the practice, also called ingrafting, in a letter to her friend Sarah Chiswell dated April 1, 1717, and imported the idea to England when she returned home. By the time Jenner was a child, ingrafting had become widespread among educated English families as a way to provide some protection against smallpox. If virulent smallpox virus had happened to survive in the batch of secretions used, however, the procedure sometimes caused severe illness and even occasional fatalities. This was generally considered to be a risk worth taking, as it was substantially less than the risk of death or disfigurement posed by epidemic smallpox itself.
Jenner knew the popular belief in Gloucester-shire that people who had been infected with cowpox, a mild disease acquired from cattle, did not get smallpox. He reasoned that since smallpox in mild form was transmitted by variolation, it might be possible to similarly transmit cowpox. He made many observations, starting in 1778, and a smallpox outbreak in 1792 provided him with the opportunity to confirm his belief that persons previously infected with cowpox did not get smallpox. In 1796 he began a courageous and unprecedented experimentne that by modern standards would be considered unethicalhat would have an incalculable benefit for humankind. He inoculated a boy, James Phipps, with secretions from a cowpox lesion. Over the following months he inoculated others, most of them children, inoculating twenty-three in all. They all survived unharmed, and none got smallpox. In 1798, Jenner published his results in An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. His findings rank among the most important medical discoveries of all time.
The importance of Jenner's work was immediately recognized, and although there were skeptics and vicious antagonists, vaccination programs soon began. At first, these programs were conducted more vigorously in some European nations than in Britain. In 1802, Jenner was rewarded by Parliament with a grant of £10,000, and in 1807 with a further £20,000, but he was not otherwise honored in his own country. In France and other European nations, however, his achievement was more suitably commemorated.
In due course, Jenner's discovery led to a successful campaign by the World Health Organization to eradicate smallpox. In 1980, the World Health Assembly proclaimed that smallpox, one of the most deadly scourges of mankind, had been eradicated. At the beginning of the new millennium, samples of the smallpox virus survive in secure biological laboratories in several countries, but thanks to Edward Jenner, this terrible disease need never again take a human life.
JOHN M. LAST
Jenner, E. (1798). An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. Reprint. Birmingham, AL: Classics of Medicine Library, 1978.
LeFanu, W. R. (1951). A Bio-bibliography of Edward Jenner, 1749823. London: Harvey and Blythe.
Jenner, Edward (1749-1823) (World of Microbiology and Immunology)
Edward Jenner discovered the process of vaccination, when he found that injection with cowpox protected against smallpox. His method of immunization via vaccination ushered in the new science of immunology.
Jenner was born in Berkeley, England, the third son and youngest of six children of Stephen Jenner, a clergyman of the Church of England. He was orphaned at age five and was raised by his older sister, who was married to a clergyman. When Jenner was thirteen years old, he was apprenticed to a surgeon. Then in 1770, he moved to London, England, to work with John Hunter (1728 1798), an eminent Scottish anatomist and surgeon who encouraged Jenner to be inquisitive and experimental in his approach to medicine. Jenner returned to Berkeley in 1773, and set up practice as a country doctor.
During and prior to Jenner's lifetime, smallpox was a common and often fatal disease worldwide. Many centuries before Jenner's time, the Chinese had begun the practice of blowing flakes from smallpox scabs up the nostrils of healthy persons to confer immunity to the disease. By the seventeenth century, the Turks and Greeks had discovered that, when injected into the skin of healthy individuals, the serum from the
As a young physician, Jenner noted that dairy workers who had been exposed to cowpox, a disease like smallpox only milder, seemed immune to the more severe infection. He continually put forth his theory that cowpox could be used to prevent smallpox, but his contemporaries shunned his ideas. They maintained that they had seen smallpox victims who claimed to have had earlier cases of cowpox.
It became Jenner's task to transform a country superstition into an accepted medical practice. For up until the mid 1770s, the only documented cases of vaccinations using cowpox came from farmers such as Benjamin Jesty of Dorsetshire who vaccinated his family with cowpox using a darning needle.
After observing cases of cowpox and smallpox for a quarter century, Jenner took a step that could have branded him a criminal as easily as a hero. On May 14, 1796, he removed the fluid from a cowpox lesion from dairymaid Sarah Nelmes, and inoculated James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy, who soon came down with cowpox. Six weeks later, he inoculated the boy with smallpox. The boy remained healthy. Jenner had proved his theory. He called his method vaccination, using the Latin word vacca, meaning cow, and vaccinia, meaning cowpox. He also introduced the word virus.
The publication of Jenner's An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae set off an enthusiastic demand for vaccination throughout Europe. Within 18 months, the number of deaths from smallpox had dropped by two-thirds in England after 12,000 people were vaccinated. By 1800, over 100,000 people had been vaccinated worldwide. As the demand for the vaccine rapidly increased, Jenner discovered that he could take lymph from a smallpox pustule and dry it in a glass tube for use up to three months later. The vaccine could then be transported.
Jenner was honored and respected throughout Europe and the United States. At his request, Napoleon released several Englishmen who had been jailed in France in 1804, while France and Great Britain were at war. Across the Atlantic Ocean, Thomas Jefferson received the vaccine from Jenner and proceeded to vaccinate his family and neighbors at Monticello. However, in his native England, Jenner's medical colleagues refused to allow him entry into the College of Physicians in London, insisting that he first pass a test on the theories of Hippocrates and Galen. Jenner refused to bow to their demands, saying his accomplishments in conquering smallpox should have qualified him for election. He was never elected to the college. Jenner continued his medical practice, as well as collecting fossils and propagating hybrid plants in his garden, until his death from a stroke at the age of 73.
Nearly two centuries after Jenner's experimental vaccination of young James, the World Health Organization declared endemic smallpox to be eradicated.
See also Antibody and antigen; Antibody formation and kinetics; Immunity, active, passive and delayed; Immunity, cell mediated; Immunity, humoral regulation