The Old Wives Tale That Cured Smallpox

By Megan Garry-Evans, Legends Report Writer

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” 
- Albert Einstein

During the 18th century the average life expectancy was far lower than it is today in Britain. People were often too poor to pay for medicine, and for those who could, it wasn’t guaranteed to cure them. One disease that was very prevalent at the time was smallpox also coined the ‘speckled monster’ by a doctor named Edward Jenner. He was an English physician and scientist, who lived in the 18th & 19th Century. The smallpox disease killed as many as 400,000 Europeans a year and left others with unpleasant scars all over their body.

However, at the end of the 18th century, Edward Jenner realised something that could save countless lives and change the world forever. Jenner was aware of an old wives tale in which milkmaids never contracted smallpox, instead, they would develop the milder and relatively harmless cowpox disease. With this knowledge, Dr Jenner wondered whether or not the two diseases were linked and if contracting one, meant that it was then impossible to contract the other. And so, Edward Jenner had his hypothesis and set out to prove it.

His first experiment was on James Phipps, an 8-year-old boy. James was first infected with cowpox, which made him mildly ill before fully recovering. Later, the boy was given smallpox, and to Dr Jenner's delight, the disease did not develop. The cowpox had thus created an immunity to smallpox. This is the first ever vaccination, a term which he coined and a practice which was to be repeated all over the world.

Spurred by the success of his first experiment, Dr Jenner devoted a great deal of his time demonstrating to others the use of vaccination. In 1798 he published all his research in a book entitled 'An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae; a Disease Discovered in some of the Western Counties of England, Particularly Gloucestershire, and Known by the Name of The Cow Pox'.

Imagination was the key to Edward Jenner’s success. The first step towards his breakthrough was imagining the possibility that the wives tale could be true. Yet, we must recognise that imagination is only the basis. To make our visions reality we have to work hard to prove our dreams to others, like Dr Jenner who made it his life's work to show that his findings were true.

How To Apply This...

Imagine a future and a reality that you want, like Edward Jenner imagined a world without smallpox, which as a result of his discovery has been a reality since 1980. Use your imagination to propel yourself to make what you want happen, but remember it is your dedication and hard work that truly makes your vision a reality...

If this has inspired you then why don’t you read more about imagination by checking why Seve Ballesteros came such as brilliant golfer.

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By | 2017-07-02T15:34:26+00:00 July 2nd, 2017|

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