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Directors Address ALLERGY CME 2018 Print E-mail

Today I wish you all to rememeber one of the great pioneers of modern medicine, Edward Jenner, whose work led to the advent of vaccination. Bearing in mind how much we rely on these to protect us against numerous conditions and diseases now, it is one worth remembering.

Revered today as the pioneer of the smallpox vaccination and the father of the science of Immunology, in his time, Jenner became a significant leader in the field of science, inspiring many to expand their ideas. His leadership is what I admire him for mostly, but there are many other things. By excelling in productivity and quick thinking, he accomplished the unthinkable by creating a vaccination for smallpox, proving highly beneficial to society.

Born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire on 17 May 1749, Edward Jenner was the son of the local vicar. He was only 14 years old when he became an apprentice to a surgeon, and began training to be a doctor. Working in the countryside, Jenner noticed that, despite the rife nature of the smallpox disease across England, the milkmaids never suffered from it. They didn’t even show signs of the scarring that commonly affected smallpox sufferers. He did know, however, that the milkmaids often suffered from the far less serious condition of cowpox. Jenner therefore began to work on the theory that perhaps milkmaids did catch the smallpox disease, but had somehow become immune to it.

Taking his thought processes further, Jenner speculated that if you had the relatively harmless cowpox, then perhaps you wouldn’t get the far more lethal disease of smallpox at all(Smallpox was the most feared and greatest killer of Jenner's time. In today's terms it was as deadly as cancer or heart disease) Wanting to prove his theory, in 1796 Jenner carried out his now famous experiment, which involved using a needle to insert pus from Sarah Neales, a milkmaid with cowpox, into the arm of an eight-year-old, James Phipps. A few days later, Jenner then exposed James to the smallpox. The boy failed to contract the disease, and Jenner concluded he was now immune to it. Calling this new method vaccination (after the Latin word vacca, meaning cow), Jenner submitted a paper to the Royal Society the following year about his discovery. It was met with some interest, but further proof was requested. Jenner proceeded to vaccinate and monitor several more children, including his own son.

Although the results of Jenner’s study were published in 1798, his work met with opposition, and even ridicule. The research finally led to the naming of this groundbreaking process as 'vaccination'. The name of the process was fittingly taken from Jenner's research.

However, Jenner’s work would ultimately lead to a wave of medical innovation, and further, to the large number of life saving vaccinations available today. For this, he is surely worthy of remembrance.

Thanks to Jenner's work greater developments in preventative medicine, and the now established science of Immunology, continue to save lives today.


Last Updated on Friday, 27 April 2018 17:38

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