Edward Jenner was an English country doctor from Gloucestershire who is widely credited with discovering and creating the world’s first-ever vaccination. He was able to create and administer the world’s first vaccination program for smallpox, which was a disease that killed millions of people over many centuries.
One may know the saying as clear as a milkmaid’s skin, and this was a song or stereotype that was widely sung because milkmaid’s rarely ever got smallpox sores on their face. As a medical student, Jenner noticed that milkmaids would contract a disease that is known as cowpox on their arms. This resembles the same sores from smallpox, which is because the two diseases are closely related. Milkmaid’s would catch this from touching the utter’s of infected cows.
However, he noted that they did not catch smallpox, which was much deadlier. Smallpox would cause severe skin eruptions and dangerous fevers that caused many human deaths. Cowpox simply led to a couple of ill symptoms amongst these women. On May 14, 1796, Jenner did something that would be unimaginable today. He used a eight year old boy as a guinea pig to test his theory. He took the fluid from a cowpox blister and scratched it into the skin of the boy. As he thought, a single blister rose on the spot, but James soon recovered from the cowpox.
On July 1, Jenner did the same thing but this time he injected the boy with smallpox fluid. Incredibly no disease developed, which meant the vaccine was a success. Doctors all over Europe soon started to follow his work and incorporate his technique into their medical operations. This led to a steep and drastic decline of new sufferers from the disease.
During the 19th and 20th century, many scientists used Jenner’s model to create new vaccines that were much more powerful and could fight numerous terrible diseases. Which created the invention of vaccines for polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus, yellow fever and typhus – to just name a few. Much more sophisticated smallpox vaccines were also developed by the World Health Organization during the 1970s as they made it a goal to eliminate smallpox worldwide.