Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: variolation

  • John Walker, vaccinator extraordinaire

    JMS PearceHull, England Medicine has bred many odd but audacious characters, eccentrics, polymaths and “truants.” One might argue that those characteristics attracted such people to careers in medicine: a chicken and egg dilemma. Conversely, some have argued that modern regulated uniformity has infected medicine and stultified originality. A little-known medical eccentric and heretic was John…

  • “Killed By Vaccination”: the enduring currency of a nineteenth century illogic

    Saty Satya-MurtiSanta Maria, California, United States Vaccine misinformation and anti-vaccination conspiracy theories are not new but have acquired a combative energy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly all the arguments now raised against vaccination were known in the late nineteenth-century, and the vaccine objectors’ rhetoric shows striking similarities to that in use today. Smallpox vaccine opponents:…

  • Mortality data, risk probability, and the psychology of assent in the enlightenment smallpox debate

    David SpadaforaPinehurst, North Carolina The present health crisis is hardly the first to provoke significant controversy about preventing and treating widespread disease. Debate over epidemic-related data, its reliability, and its uses has a long history. So does concern about the psychological elements involved in securing assent from physicians and an endangered population for the use…

  • The global journey of variolation

    Mariel TishmaChicago, Illinois, United States Humanity has eliminated only one infectious disease—smallpox. Smallpox is a very old disease and efforts to prevent it are almost as old. They included a technique called variolation, also known as inoculation or engrafting, in which individuals were infected with live smallpox virus to produce a milder form of the…

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and smallpox

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. A painting of Mary Wortley Montagu by Jonathan Richardson the Younger. Via Wikimedia. There are few examples of people with no medical training who independently make significant advances in medical practice. One such person was the elegant, aristocratic Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762)—daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, first Duke…

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montague: variolation against smallpox

    Born in 1689, Lady Mary Wortley Montague was the most colorful Englishwoman of her time—an eccentric aristocrat, writer, and poet. In 1715 while still a young woman, her beauty was marred by a severe attack of smallpox. She had eloped in 1710 rather than accept an arranged marriage, and in 1715 her husband became British…

  • Edward Jenner and the dairymaid

    Smallpox has plagued mankind since time immemorial, causing huge epidemics with great loss of life and often changing the course of history. The disease could be prevented or ameliorated by variolation, the subcutaneous inoculation with fluid from smallpox lesions into non-immune individuals. Variolation had been used for centuries, even for members of royal families. It…

  • Washington’s deadliest enemy

    Kathryn ToneWiesbaden, Germany As Commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington is famously remembered for the surprise 1776 Christmas attack on the Hessian garrison in Trenton, New Jersey. A bold, relatively spontaneous decision, the attack was a last-ditch effort to salvage some sort of victory after some punishing eight months of humiliating defeats from…