Smallpox was the first effective vaccine to be created. It was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1798 and used his theory on milkmaids to test its effectiveness.
Edward Jenner invented the vaccination in 1790s.
Vaccination (introducing a substance into the body in order to produce immunity to a disease) may have been used in China, India, and Persia (present-day Iran) in ancient times. However, English doctor Edward Jenner (1749–1823) used the first recorded vaccination. He was inspired to develop the technique when he noticed that dairymaids (women who milk cows) in rural Gloucestershire who had previously been sick with cowpox (a contagious disease that causes blisters on the cow's udder and on the milkmaid's hand) did not catch smallpox, a disease similar to cowpox. Jenner wondered if the dairymaids had developed immunity to smallpox, which then often killed people in much-feared epidemics. Jenner tested his theory on an eight-year-old boy named Phipps. He took some matter from a milkmaid's cowpox vesicles (blisters) and injected it into the boy, who then developed temporary immunity (resistance) to smallpox.
Using Jenner's research, French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) took the process one step further. While working on both chicken cholera (a serious, often fatal disease of the intestines) and anthrax (an often fatal disease usually transmitted by cattle and sheep) bacteria, he discovered that a weakened form of bacteria could produce immunity from the disease caused by the bacteria. Thus, Pasteur's discovery is the basis for vaccines that have saved millions of lives from such diseases as whooping cough, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus, and influenza.
Further Information: Curtis, Robert H. Great Lives: Medicine. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993, pp. 119–27; Miller, Brandon Marie. Just What the Doctor Ordered. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner, 1997; Morris, Stephen. Edward Jenner. New York: Franklin Watts, 1992; Mulcahy, Robert. Diseases: Finding the Cure. Minneapolis, Minn.: Oliver Press, 1996, pp. 27–40.