Medical Innovators- Edward Jenner

Who was Edward Jenner? 

Edward Jenner, born in mid-18th century England,  was a country doctor who  developed a treatment for to protect adults and children from catching a dreadful disease called smallpox. His work would eventually lead to him becoming one of the most famous scientists in medical history and become named as “Father of Immunology.”

His pioneering work has lead to billions of peoples lives throughout the world being saved!

What did he do?

Edward Jenner was the first doctor to vaccinate people against smallpox; he was responsible for developing the world’s first vaccine.

Working in an agricultural community, Jenner knew of the country folklore that milkmaids never caught smallpox. They were known for their relatively flawless complexions, which were unmarked by smallpox scarring. However, they inevitably caught cowpox through their close work with cows. Jenner hypothesised that a bout of cowpox produced immunity against smallpox and even encountered locals who claimed to have deliberately infected themselves to provoke such a response. As a forward-thinking doctor who liked to experiment, Jenner wanted to prove his theory correct.

What did he do?

Jenner inoculated an eight-year-old boy with cowpox matter from a blister on the hand of an English milkmaid. He then repeatedly attempted to “challenge” the cowpox inoculation by exposing the boy to smallpox material—but the boy never fell ill. Jenner had demonstrated smallpox immunization.

What was Smallpox? Why was it so bad?

Smallpox was a dangerous disease. In Jenner’s time, smallpox killed about 10% of the population, rising to 20% in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. The symptoms of smallpox were pus-filled spots (yuk) – and those that didn’t die were left with nasty sores on their face, known as ‘pock-marks’. Smallpox could also make you blind


Jenner’s discovery was a huge medical breakthrough. His work is said to have saved more lives than the work of any other human! Truly, an inspirational scientist!

This term we will be looking at how Edward Jenner used key scientific concepts; hypothesising, experimenting, investigating, data collection and drawing conclusions to develop the worlds 1st vaccine!

Click on one of the images hyperlinked below to help you conduct your own research. Help yourself learn!





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