Edward Jenner

By: Hannah Smith

About Him:

Born: May 17, 1749

Died: January 26, 1823

Edward Jenner was born and died in Berkeley, England. He was the youngest of six kids and the third son. He was orphaned at the age of five and raised by his older brother. At the age of 13 he became an apprentice to surgeon, Daniel Ludlow. He then moved to London and began working with anatomist and surgeon, John Hunter at St. George's Hospital. He was encouraged to be inquisitive and experimental in his approach to medicine. He got his degree from St. Andrew's in Scotland. In 1773 he went back to Berkeley and started practicing as a doctor. He then began researching and experimenting with smallpox cures.

Top Discovery

One of the discoveries that Jenner is best known for is his cure for smallpox. During his lifetime, smallpox was a big issue and he started referring back to the practices of the Turks and Greeks. They had discovered that injecting a small amount of smallpox into individuals made them immune to it. Jenner believed that if cowpox was injected into people, they would be immune to smallpox. His peers rejected this theory but Jenner was determined. He studied smallpox and cowpox for many years and wanted to test out his theory. In a questionable experiment, Jenner took fluid from a cowpox from dairymaid, Sarah Nelms and injected it into eight year old, James Phipps. James got cowpox and six weeks later Jenner injected him with smallpox. He showed no signs that he had the disease. Jenner had proven his theory and called this vaccination.

How He Helped

After Jenner published, "An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae," the demand for vaccines increased. In one and a half years the number of deaths from smallpox had dropped 2/3 in England after 20,000 people were vaccinated. This then spread throughout the world after Jenner discovered that he could dry lymph from a smallpox pustule and transport it. By 1800, 100,000 people had been vaccinated. Nearly two centuries after his experiment with James Phipps, smallpox was said to be eradicated.


Smallpox, also known as variola, is a highly contagious viral disease. There are two versions of the virus. The first is Variola Major which is deadly. It kills more than 1/3 of the people who get it. The second is Variola Minor. This is less severe but can still leave people blind and scarred. Vaccination is the only way to prevent it. It is believed to have started in northeastern Africa in 10,000 BC and have spread from there. Before vaccinations or inoculation was known about, whole households were dying from the disease. Finally, in 1979 smallpox was concluded to be eradicated.

Introduced Vaccination

From the Latin words:

Vacca: cow

Vaccinia: cowpox


"Edward Jenner." Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Biography in Context. Web. 12 Jan. 2016

"Edward Jenner." World of Health. Gale, 2007. Biography in Context. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.

"Smallpox." World of Scientific Discovery. Gale, 2007. Biography in Context. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.