|Edward Jenner(17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823)|
Noting the common observation that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected them from smallpox.
On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy who was the son of Jenner’s gardener. He scraped pus from cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide now hangs on the wall of the St George’s medical school library (now in Tooting). Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.
Jenner inoculated Phipps in both arms that day, subsequently producing in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.
In 1803 in London, he became president of the Jennerian Society, concerned with promoting vaccination to eradicate smallpox. The Jennerian ceased operations in 1809. In 1808, with government aid, the National Vaccine Establishment was founded, but Jenner felt dishonoured by the men selected to run it and resigned his directorship. Jenner became a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Society on its founding in 1805 (now the Royal Society of Medicine) and presented several papers there. Jenner was also elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1802, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1806.
Returning to London in 1811, Jenner observed a significant number of cases of smallpox after vaccination. He found that in these cases the severity of the illness was notably diminished by previous vaccination. In 1821, he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. He continued to investigate natural history, and in 1823, the last year of his life, he presented his “Observations on the Migration of Birds” to the Royal Society.