Edward Jenner, FRSFRCPE (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine. The terms "vaccine" and "vaccination" are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1796 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox.
Jenner is often called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other human". In Jenner's time, smallpox killed around 10 percent of the population, with the number as high as 20 percent in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. In 1821 he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. A member of the Royal Society, in the field of zoology he was the first person to describe the brood parasitism of the cuckoo. In 2002, Jenner was named in the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons.
Edward Jenner was born on 17 May 1749 (6 May Old Style) in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, as the eighth of nine children. His father, the Reverend Stephen Jenner, was the vicar of Berkeley, so Jenner received a strong basic education.
Jenner and others formed the Fleece Medical Society or Gloucestershire Medical Society, so called because it met in the parlour of the Fleece Inn, Rodborough (in Gloucestershire). Members dined together and read papers on medical subjects. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia, and cardiac valvular disease and commented on cowpox. He also belonged to a similar society which met in Alveston, near Bristol.
He became a master mason on 30 December 1802, in Lodge of Faith and Friendship #449. From 1812–1813, he served as worshipful master of Royal Berkeley Lodge of Faith and Friendship.
Edward Jenner was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1788, following his publication of a careful study of the previously misunderstood life of the nested cuckoo, a study that combined observation, experiment, and dissection.
He described how the newly-hatched cuckoo pushed its host's eggs and fledgling chicks out of the nest (contrary to existing belief that the adult cuckoo did it). Having observed this behaviour, Jenner demonstrated an anatomical adaptation for it—the baby cuckoo has a depression in its back, not present after 12 days of life, that enables it to cup eggs and other chicks. The adult does not remain long enough in the area to perform this task. Jenner's findings were published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1788.
"The singularity of its shape is well adapted to these purposes; for, different from other newly hatched birds, its back from the scapula downwards is very broad, with a considerable depression in the middle. This depression seems formed by nature for the design of giving a more secure lodgement to the egg of the Hedge-sparrow, or its young one, when the young Cuckoo is employed in removing either of them from the nest. When it is about twelve days old, this cavity is quite filled up, and then the back assumes the shape of nestling birds in general."  Jenner's nephew assisted in the study. He was born on 30 June 1737.
Jenner's understanding of the cuckoo's behaviour was not entirely believed until the artist Jemima Blackburn, a keen observer of bird life, saw a blind nestling pushing out a host's egg. Her description and illustration of this were enough to convince Charles Darwin to revise a later edition of On the Origin of Species.
Jenner's interest in Zoology played a large role in his first experiment with inoculation. Not only did he have a profound understanding of human anatomy due to his medical training, but he also understood animal biology and its role in human-animal trans-species boundaries in disease transmission. At the time there was no way of knowing how important this connection would be to the history and discovery of vaccinations. We see this connection now; many present day vaccinations include animal parts from cows, rabbits, and chicken eggs, which can be attributed to the work of Jenner and his cowpox/smallpox vaccination.
Marriage and human medicine
A lecturer's certificate of attendance given to Jenner. He attended many lectures on chemistry, medicine and physics.
Jenner married Catherine Kingscote (died 1815 from tuberculosis) in March 1788. He might have met her while he and other fellows were experimenting with balloons. Jenner's trial balloon descended into Kingscote Park, Gloucestershire, owned by Anthony Kingscote, one of whose daughters was Catherine.
He earned his MD from the University of St Andrews in 1792. He is credited with advancing the understanding of angina pectoris. In his correspondence with Heberden, he wrote, "How much the heart must suffer from the coronary arteries not being able to perform their functions."
Invention of the vaccine
Edward Jenner Advising a Farmer to Vaccinate His Family. Oil painting by an English painter, c. 1910
Jenner's discovery of the link between cowpox pus and smallpox in humans helped him to create the smallpox vaccine.
Inoculation was already a standard practice but involved serious risks, one of which was the fear that those inoculated would then transfer the disease to those around them due to their becoming carriers of the disease. In 1721, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had imported variolation to Britain after having observed it in Constantinople. Voltaire wrote that at this time 60% of the population caught smallpox and 20% of the population died of it. Voltaire also states that the Circassians used the inoculation from times immemorial, and the custom may have been borrowed by the Turks from the Circassians.
The steps taken by Edward Jenner to create vaccination, the first vaccine for smallpox. Jenner did this by inoculating James Phipps with cowpox, a virus similar to smallpox, to create immunity, unlike variolation, which used smallpox to create an immunity to itself.
By 1768, English physician John Fewster had realised that prior infection with cowpox rendered a person immune to smallpox. In the years following 1770, at least five investigators in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) successfully tested in humans a cowpox vaccine against smallpox. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity with cowpox in his wife and two children during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner's work that the procedure became widely understood. Jenner may have been aware of Jesty's procedures and success. A similar observation had also been made in France by Jacques Antoine Rabaut-Pommier in 1780.
Noting the common observation that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected them from smallpox.
The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called "the grease", which was transferred to cattle by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox.
Dr Jenner performing his first vaccination on James Phipps, a boy of age 8. 14 May 1796
On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy who was the son of Jenner's gardener. He scraped pus from cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide now hangs on the wall of the St George's medical school library (now in Tooting). Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner's first paper on vaccination.
Jenner inoculated Phipps in both arms that day, subsequently producing in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.
Smallpox is more dangerous than variolation and cowpox less dangerous than variolation.
If target is infected with cowpox, then target is immune to smallpox.
If variolation after infection with cowpox fails to produce a smallpox infection, immunity to smallpox has been achieved.
Immunity to smallpox can be induced much more safely than by variolation.
Donald Hopkins has written, "Jenner's unique contribution was not that he inoculated a few persons with cowpox, but that he then proved [by subsequent challenges] that they were immune to smallpox. Moreover, he demonstrated that the protective cowpox pus could be effectively inoculated from person to person, not just directly from cattle." Jenner successfully tested his hypothesis on 23 additional subjects.
James Gillray's 1802 caricature of Jenner vaccinating patients who feared it would make them sprout cowlike appendages.
Jenner continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, which did not publish the initial paper. After revisions and further investigations, he published his findings on the 23 cases, including his 11 months old son Robert. Some of his conclusions were correct, some erroneous; modern microbiological and microscopic methods would make his studies easier to reproduce. The medical establishment deliberated at length over his findings before accepting them. Eventually, vaccination was accepted, and in 1840, the British government banned variolation – the use of smallpox to induce immunity – and provided vaccination using cowpox free of charge. (See Vaccination acts).
The success of his discovery soon spread around Europe and was used en masse in the Spanish Balmis Expedition (1803–1806), a three-year-long mission to the Americas, the Philippines, Macao, China, led by Dr. Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. The expedition was successful, and Jenner wrote, "I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this."Napoleon, who at the time was at war with Britain, had all his French troops vaccinated, awarded Jenner a medal, and at the request of Jenner he released two English prisoners of war and permitted their return home. Napoleon remarked he could not "refuse anything to one of the greatest benefactors of mankind."
Jenner's continuing work on vaccination prevented him from continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament, and was granted £10,000 in 1802 for his work on vaccination. In 1807, he was granted another £20,000 after the Royal College of Physicians confirmed the widespread efficacy of vaccination.
Jenner was also elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1802, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1806. In 1803 in London, he became president of the Jennerian Society, concerned with promoting vaccination to eradicate smallpox. The Jennerian ceased operations in 1809. Jenner became a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Society on its founding in 1805 (now the Royal Society of Medicine) and presented several papers there. In 1808, with government aid, the National Vaccine Establishment was founded, but Jenner felt dishonoured by the men selected to run it and resigned his directorship.
Returning to London in 1811, Jenner observed a significant number of cases of smallpox after vaccination. He found that in these cases the severity of the illness was notably diminished by previous vaccination. In 1821, he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. He continued to investigate natural history, and in 1823, the last year of his life, he presented his "Observations on the Migration of Birds" to the Royal Society.
Jenner was found in a state of apoplexy on 25 January 1823, with his right side paralysed. He never fully recovered and eventually died of an apparent stroke, his second, on 26 January 1823, aged 73. He was buried in the Jenner family vault at the Church of St. Mary, Berkeley. He was survived by his son Robert Fitzharding (* 1797; † 1854) and his daughter Catherine (* 1794; † 1833), his elder son Edward (* 1789; † 1810) having died of tuberculosis aged 21.
Neither fanatic nor lax, Jenner was a Christian who in his personal correspondence showed himself quite spiritual; he treasured the Bible. Some days before his death, he stated to a friend: "I am not surprised that men are not grateful to me; but I wonder that they are not grateful to God for the good which he has made me the instrument of conveying to my fellow creatures."
However, his contemporary Rabbi Israel Lipschitz in his classic commentary on the Mishna Tiferet Yisrael wrote that Jenner was one of the "righteous of the nations," deserving a lofty place in the World to Come, for having saved millions of people from smallpox.
Edward Jenner's name is featured on the Frieze of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Twenty-three names of public health and tropical medicine pioneers were chosen to feature of the Keppel Street building when it was constructed in 1926.
1798 An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ
1799 Further Observations on the Variolæ Vaccinæ, or Cow-Pox.
1800 A Continuation of Facts and Observations relative to the Variolæ Vaccinæ 40pgs
^Observations on the Natural History of the Cuckoo. By Mr. Edward Jenner. In a Letter to John Hunter, Esq. F. R. S Jenner, E Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1776–1886). 1 January 1788. 78:219–237 (Archived Text)
^Cuckoo chicks evicting their nest mates: coincidental observations by Edward Jenner in England and Antoine Joseph Lottinger in France, Spencer G. Sealy and Mélanie F. Guigueno Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada. Archives of Natural History. Volume 38, Page 220-228 doi:10.3366/anh.2011.0030, ISSN0260-9541, Available Online October 2011
^(Letter to Hunter at the Royal Society, as above)
^The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. 2006.
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^Richard B. Fisher, Edward Jenner (Andre Deutsch, 1991) 40–42
^"A brief history of the University". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 11 February 2018. Through the centuries many great minds have been attracted to St Andrews:...Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine (MD, 1792)
^Plett PC (2006). "Peter Plett and other discoverers of cowpox vaccination before Edward Jenner" [Peter Plett and other discoverers of cowpox vaccination before Edward Jenner]. Sudhoffs Archiv (in German). 90 (2): 219–32. PMID17338405.
^"Andean Studies: New Trends and Library Resources : Papers of the Forty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials", University of California, Los Angeles ... 27–31 May 2000". p. 46
^ abDe Beer, G. R. (May 1952). "The relations between fellows of the Royal Society and French men of science when France and Britain were at war". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 9 (2): 297. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1952.0016.
^Baron, John, 1838. The Life of Edward Jenner ...: With Illustrations of His Doctrines, and Selections from His Correspondence, Volume 2. Henry Colburn. See pages 141, 179, 221, 282, 295, 317, 416, 447–448
^Nolie Mumey, Edward Jenner; 1949. Vaccination: bicentenary of the birth of Edward Jenner, Volume 1. Range Press, p. 37
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