Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

The Foundation of Immunology

Edward Jenner (1749-1823). An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae, a disease…known by the name of the cow pox. London, Printed for the author by S. Low, 1798.

Edward Jenner (1749-1823). An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae, a disease…known by the name of the cow pox. London, Printed for the author by S. Low, 1798.On the basis of an old country tradition that milkmaids who had contracted cowpox (a relatively mild disease) were not susceptible to the dreaded smallpox, Edward Jenner, an English country physician, decided to inject cowpox-infected lymph into a local boy. After the inoculation, the boy was found to be immune to smallpox and Jenner continued his experiments and summarized his finding in this epochal work published in 1798. By 1803 his work had been translated into numerous languages and his method of immunization was taken up with amazing speed, becoming almost universally adopted. The medical historian, Fielding H. Garrison has called Jenner’s work “one of the greatest triumphs in the history of medicine.” It is the foundation of all subsequent work in immunology and virology. [adopted from Heirs of Hippocrates]