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The Eradication of Smallpox

Although it has taken a huge collective effort by many individuals and nations, the eradication of smallpox was mainly brought about by the pioneering efforts of Edward Jenner. Smallpox had been killing humans for over 3000 years and has been referred to as one of the greatest all-time scourges to mankind. One of thefirst known efforts to fight this horrible disease by immunization was in China where powdered scabs of smallpox pustules were blown into the nostrils of healthy persons through a tube. This method of immunization was called variolation and involved taking samples (which consisted of vesicles, pus from pustules, or ground scabs) from patients who had a mild form of the disease and inoculating the material into other persons through the nose or skin (Hopkins 24).
The practice of variolation came to Europe from the East at the beginning of the 18th century by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and English aristocrat. Lady Montague's husband was an ambassador to the East for England and while in Istanbul, she observed their method of variolation. She was so impressed by the Turk's method that she had her
5-year-old son inoculated then her 4-year-old daughter when they returned to England. This was thefirst variolation performed in England (Hopkins 38).
This method of variolation slowly gained general acceptance throughout all of Europe, although it had varying degrees of success. A portion of patients treated with variolation became ill with smallpox and subsequently died from the infection or started a new epidemic, and thus there was a fear that the inoculation did not provide immunity, but just provided infection. A few innovative scientists saw that there must be a better way to provide immunity, and Edward Jenner saw this "better way" in a correlation between cowpox and smallpox that eventually dubbed him the "father of the smallpox va

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