As you stroll through Kensington Gardens in Westminster’s Hyde Park, you will likely pass a statue whose name you may – or may not – recognise.
Edward Jenner was born in 1749 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, and studied medicine at St. George’s Hospital, London. Returning to Berkeley to practice as a GP.
It was a time when smallpox was one of the most feared diseases worldwide, having been bought into the UK by returning crusaders. It accounted for a high percentage of deaths around the country and left survivors often terribly scarred and sometimes blind. Jenner made it his mission to find a cure.
As a rural GP, he also heard of herds of cows and cattle suffering from an animal disease called cowpox. Although not particularly deadly, it was often passed on to humans. What really interested Jenner, however, was that humans who had contracted cowpox, seemed to develop an immunity to smallpox.
As similar reports began to surface, in 1796, most unethically, he deliberately injected a farmer’s young son with cowpox. Although the boy showed some mild reaction, he recovered within six weeks, and Jenner then infected him with smallpox. The boy didn’t catch it, and was deemed immune.
Eventually, Jenner’s method was accepted, and he forecasted the end of smallpox worldwide – which finally happened in 1980.
Jenner died in 1823. His statue was initially placed in Trafalgar Square and unveiled by Prince Albert in 1858. However, even back then, the country had its anti-vaxxers, and after some pressure the statue was relocated to Kensington Gardens in 1862, where it sits to this day.
Di James Northcote – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6800590