Dr. Edward Jenner: Artist unknown
If you contracted smallpox prior to Dr. Jenner's vaccine, you were likely to die a horrible death.
Your head and back ached, you'd be vomiting and soon red blisters would appear on your face and spread throughout your body and you'd be engulfed in pain and fever.
If you survived, your body would be pockmarked with scars.
In Europe in the 18th century, it has been estimated that 60% of the population was sickened by smallpox, and 20% of the population died from it.
But there was no smallpox in the Americas until the Europeans arrived. The smallpox they carried wiped out much of the native population.
Nobody had ever been able to prevent smallpox but that didn't deter British physician Dr. Jenner (1749 - 1823) who was determined to end this terrifying disease.
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Dr. Jenner studied the smallpox research, and learned that cowpox, which was caused by cows, was a mild form of the disease, similar to smallpox.
He noted that milkmaids who had gotten cowpox were seemingly immune to smallpox.
In 1796, after considerable research, Dr. Jenner scraped cowpox blisters from Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had gotten cowpox from a cow named Blossom.
He processed those blisters and with parental permission, injected them into 8 year old James Phipps.
The child became only mildly ill. Dr. Jenner then carefully tested James' reaction to smallpox, which the boy did not contract.
Dr. Jenner did the same thing with 23 more patients and none of them contracted smallpox.
Dr. Jenner presented these extraordinary results to the Royal College of Surgeons, which after extensive study approved his findings.
By the early 1800's, Dr. Jenner's vaccine began to spread globally and became a godsend to people everywhere in eradicating or reducing the effects of this horrific disease.
Dr. Jenner received many honors, but the greatest honor would be all the people over the years that never faced the devastating effects of smallpox.