A 300-Year-Old Tale of One Woman’s Quest to Stop a Deadly Virus

Science and determination turned the tide against one of the worst diseases humanity has ever endured. Three hundred years ago, in 1721, England was in the grips of a smallpox epidemic. “There were people dying all over the place,” says Isobel Grundy, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Alberta in Canada. “Social life[…]

Smallpox and After: An Early History of the Treatment and Prevention of Infections

Introduction The scientific work that led to the discovery of the causes of infections was possibly the major biomedical advance of the nineteenth century. From it was derived the aseptic technique of Lister, the use of antitoxins and immunisation, and the ultimately successful search for chemicals selectively toxic to bacterial cells. The conquest of most[…]

Edward Jenner and the Search for the Smallpox Vaccine in the 18th Century

His work led to systematically developing, testing, and popularizing inoculation that saved countless lives. Introduction Edward B. Jenner (May 17, 1749 – January 26, 1823) was an English physician and scientist who is most recognized for introducing and popularizing an effective and relatively safe means of vaccination against smallpox, a discovery that proved to be[…]

Pox in the City

From cows to controversy, the smallpox vaccine triumphed. Not malaria. Not cholera. Not AIDS, influenza, measles, or tuberculosis. Not even bubonic plague. No disease in history has destroyed more lives than the “speckled monster,” smallpox. The pattern repeated itself in every empire: Egyptian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Chinese. Outbreaks always started subtly, with flu-like[…]

The Role of Smallpox in the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs 500 Years Ago

Hernán Cortés owed his conquest of the Aztecs to his expedition’s unknown, unseen secret weapon: the smallpox virus. Disease epidemics can set the course of human history. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have drawn attention to the dangers of measles. The Democratic Republic of Congo is fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola that has killed hundreds. Epidemics are[…]