The rapid pace of vaccine development in recent decades often leads to neglect of the historic origins of immunization, particularly the epochal contribution by Edward Jenner (Fig 1).
Jenner, a country physician, invented vaccination with cowpox to replace the fearful dangers of inoculation with smallpox. This development resulted in immunity to smallpox and ushered in the era of preventive measures for contagious diseases (World Health News. May 1980).1
This article focuses on the events in Jenner's life; the history and effects of smallpox, inoculation, and vaccination; and the English physician's great contributions to public health, virology, immunology, and the end of a deadly disease.
The mortality, blindness, and horrible facial disfigurement that are characterized by smallpox (Fig 2) date to remote times in Asia, Africa, and China and were evident in an Egyptian mummy buried in 1200 bc. Rhazes (845-930), a Persian physician, wrote the earliest description of