Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner Brooke Basiri Mrs. Frey World History Honors 14 April 2000 Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley in 1749. Orphaned until he was 5 years old, his brothers and sisters wanted him to get involved with medicine. He completed his training with the great surgeon John Hunter at St. George’s Hospital in London. At the age of 23 he returned to Berkeley as the local doctor, leaving only to continue smaller practices in London and Cheltenham.

The Chantry became his home for 38 years. From the early days of his career, Jenner was interested by country-lore which held that milk-maids who caught the cowpox could not catch smallpox, one of the most feared diseases of all time. (It had been know to kill up to 20% of the population). Today, smallpox is gone, thanks to Edward Jenner. On May 14th, 1796 a milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes, came to Jenner with cowpox.

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He devised a brave and dangerous experiment. He passed on the disease to James Phipps – his gardener’s son – by scratching his skin with infected metal. (vaccination). When James had recovered from the cowpox, Jenner tried to give him smallpox. James failed to contract the disease. Jenner gathered more evidence and published his findings (at his own expense) in 1798.

Despite opposition to his revolutionary ideas, his publication – known as the Inquiry – was translated and rapidly passed around the world. 170 years later, in 1967, the World Health Organization masterminded a final global plan to get rid of smallpox for good. Success was announced in 1980. Smallpox was dead! Edward Jenner’s methods, and in particular his discovery of vaccination, have now developed into one of the most important branches of modern medicine – Immunology. This science helps the world to fight and treat many infectious diseases, and mainly, to understand transplantation, allergies and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and AIDS. In addition to this profound discovery, Jenner made several other contributions to medicine.

He was probably the first to associate angina with hardening of the arteries. He also described Rheumatic Heart Disease and purified important medicines. Edward Jenner has also become famous in other fields of science. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1789 for correctly describing for the first time, the curious nesting behavior of cuckoos. He was also one of the first to publish convincing evidence that some species of birds migrated to other countries in the winter. (Many, in those days, believed they hibernated.

Together with his friend, John Hunter, he studied the hibernation of mammals such as hedgehogs and dormice. Jenner was probably the first person to fly a balloon in Britain. Filled with hydrogen and launched from Berkeley Castle, it traveled 24 miles. A skilled geologist and fossil hunter, he discovered the first Plesiosaurus fossil on nearby Stinchcombe Hill. His home, The Chantry, is now dedicated to Edward Jenner, the man, and his work.

His study remains much as it was when he died in 1823. In the peaceful garden is still the thatched hut where he vaccinated the poor, free of charge.