We use Google Analytics
These cookies allow us measure how visitors use our website, which pages are popular, and what our traffic sources are. This helps us improve how our website works and make it easier for all visitors to find what they are looking for. The information is aggregated and anonymous, and cannot be used to identify you. If you do not allow these cookies, we will be unable to use your visits to our website to help make improvements.
These cookies are usually placed by third-party advertising networks, which may use information about your website visits to develop a profile of your interests. This information may be shared with other advertisers and/or websites to deliver more relevant advertising to you across multiple websites. If you do not allow these cookies, visits to this website will not be shared with advertising partners and will not contribute to targeted advertising on other websites.
You need these to sign in using Facebook.
These cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.
May 17, 2022
Subscribe to our newsletter
In a hurry? Read the short version
You need to login first
Not a member yet?
The Jenner story is really interesting. In most modern books and papers he is still given almost all of the credit for the smallpox vaccine. I have not yet found a biography that puts his work into proper perspective, and takes full account of his many predecessors in the war on smallpox.
He and some of his early followers were superlative publicists. But they saved huge numbers of lives in the process. It can be argued that Jenner was better at marketing than at science!
In 1805 Jenner wrote to Napoleon requesting that two of his friends, William Thomas Williams and Dr John Wickham, both men of science and literature, might return to England. According to a biographer of Jenner, it was either on this or a similar occasion that Napoleon exclaimed: “Jenner! Ah, we can refuse nothing to this man.” By then, he was famous the world over.
HowAndWhy - 2022 06 13
Super piece about the origin of the smallpox vaccine. Thanks for including the role of the “ordinary people” such as the old lady in Turkey, the old Greek lady, and farmer Benjamin Jesty. Isn’t it silly that Jenner gets all the credit ... at least in the school textbooks that I read.
The myth about the fair milkmaids is also quite rightly blown out of the water. Credit rather goes to Jenner’s marketing prowess and his scientific writing. I am reminded of Martin Luther’s hammering his 95 Theses to the church door at the Wittenberg Castle—there is no record of this happening and Luther never wrote about it. But he did distribute his 95 Theses widely as was the custom among mediaeval scholars.
If only an old Greek lady could help us with an effective vaccine against COVID ...!
Peter_G_Moll - 2022 05 20
Fascinating. We nearly bought the house opposite Jesty’s farm in Yetminster which had one of the famous blue plaques on it.
Camilla - 2022 05 19
Sign up for our email newsletter
Receive updates when we publish new content along with other exclusive bits and pieces.