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Edward Jenner - Smallpox:
Jenner discovered that inoculation with cowpox prevented people from getting smallpox. His studies convinced the population to begin inoculation around 1800. Sweden has records of smallpox deaths in the decades leading up to 1800. They averaged 6052 / million population. In the decades following 1800, smallpox deaths averaged about 420 / million population. The difference is 5632 which can be attributed to Jenner’s discovery.
There is good evidence that other countries in Europe and America used Jenner’s inoculation as well. (Other countries worldwide also used Jenner’s inoculation, but because we lack data on those, we leave them out). We are assuming that inoculation remained roughly constant throughout Europe and America. So, for 70 years, until 1874, 5632 lives were saved per million population per year. The population of Europe and America combined during this time period averaged around 225 million. This means 88,704,000 lives were saved during that time period.
This number held fairly steady until 1874, when a law was passed requiring mandatory inoculation. After this, there was a drop in smallpox deaths to 13 / million population. This equals 6039 lives saved/million population due to inoculation each year. 6039/year times 90 years until smallpox was eradicated beginning in the 1960s equals 543,510 lives saved per million population. The population of Europe during this time was roughly 470 million people. America’s population during that time period was roughly 115 million. So, the average population for Europe and America during that time period was about 585 million. Multiplying the millions of people times the lives saved (585 x 543,510) equals 317,953,350 lives saved.
Therefore, adding the lives saved during the 70 years from early 1800 to the mid 1870s and the 90 years from 1874 to 1964 (88,704,000 and 317,953,350) means Jenner’s vaccine saved at least 406,657,350 lives. Because we know the numbers we used are not exact, we conservatively round this number to 406 million lives saved before the eradication effort began. The eradication effort, using a derivative of Jenner’s cowpox inoculation as a vaccine, saved an additional 122 million lives. Thus Jenner has saved more than 528 million lives. What an astonishing number!
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- edward jenner was a good purson and tryed to help but he was wrong in practisin on his 11 month baby that is wrong
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- Thank you for giving a rough estimate on the numbers saved, as its a change to see some positive facts rather than what devastation it caused, so on that would it be possible to get the numbers of children that were saved through the vaccine or would taking 80% of the total number be close?
- this is really no helpful for me. i thought it was supposed to be telling me the impact that he had during his time not giving me numbers like im a mathematician
(May 17, 1749 - January 26, 1823)
Born in England
Year of Discovery: 1796
Discovered the Smallpox Vaccine - The Very First Vaccine
Edward Jenner was an English country doctor in the late 1700s. In his practice, smallpox was one of the most common and worst problems he encountered. Smallpox at that time was greatly feared and was a major killer of the young. Jenner used keen observation skills and a lot of daring that wouldn’t be possible today to pave the way for all vaccinations.
In the farm community where Jenner worked, a large majority of the farmers were cattle farmers. In 1788, an epidemic hit the small town of Gloucestershire where he practiced medicine and he noticed that the cattle farmers were not the ones dying from smallpox. The only treatment available at the time was to inoculate healthy people with the liquid from the pustules of people with mild cases of the disease. This worked sometimes, but often had fatal results. Jenner theorized that cowpox (a much milder but similar disease to smallpox) was somehow protecting the farmers. In 1796 he had the opportunity to prove his theory correct. A young milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes came to see him about sores she had developed on her hands. He identified them as cowpox. He carefully extracted some liquid from the sores and set about proving that cowpox could protect against smallpox. His method would be illegal today but he bravely or foolishly (depending on your perspective) persevered. He approached a local farmer and asked if he could inoculate his son, James Phipps, with the cowpox. He explained that if he was correct, his son would never catch smallpox. Given the fear that surrounded smallpox, the farmer agreed. So, Dr. Jenner made two small cuts on the boy’s arm and poured in the cowpox and bandaged the arm. Soon, the boy was ill with cowpox, but not terribly ill and he made a complete recovery. Then Dr. Jenner really made a rash and dangerous move. He repeated his prior experiment but this time he used liquid he had extracted from a patient with a mild case of smallpox. If his theory was correct, the boy would not get sick, if he was wrong the patient could die and he would be a murderer. Everyone was thrilled when the boy did not get smallpox and Jenner had proved his theory.
The remarkable thing about Jenner’s discovery of vaccination, is that it came before people knew that viruses existed, or much about the immune system. He used his observation of case studies to fit the puzzle pieces together and start a truly lifesaving procedure. His idea was met with widespread skepticism but he persisted in spite of the resistance he met. There was even a cartoon drawn making fun of his theory showing people developing cow parts after vaccination.
Introduction by Martha Pat Kinney
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Experiment or Research
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Major Academic Papers
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject
Links to More About the Scientist & the Science
Edward Jenner Museum website:
Answers.com compilation of biographies:
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The Science Behind the Discovery
Morris, S. Cripwell. Edward Jenner (Pioneers of Science). Franklin Watts 1992.
Marrin, Albert. Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: The Discovery of the Smallpox Vacci: The Discovery of the Smallpox Vaccine. (Ages 9-12) Dutton Juvenile, 2002.
Links to Information on the Science