Edward Jenner (1749-1823)

"Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variole Vaccine" (1798)

In the eighteenth century, before Jenner, smallpox was a killer disease, as widespread as cancer or heart disease in the twentieth century but with the difference that the majority of its victims were infants and young children. In 1980, as a result of Jenner's discovery, the World Health Assembly officially declared "the world and its peoples" free from endemic smallpox.

The Hanoverian Royal family (whose ascent to the throne had earlier been facilitated by the smallpox deaths of more immediate heirs) ensured its succession by inoculating two of the Princess of Wales's children, in 1723 by the Turkish practice of inoculation with smallpox itself.

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1838 Smallpox epidemic in England.
1853 Smallpox epidemic in England.
1853 In England, the Compulsory Vaccination Act . From 1853 to 1860, vaccination reached 75% of the live births and more than 90% of the population.
1857 Vaccination in England enforced by fines. Smallpox epidemic begins in England that lasts until 1859. Over 14,000 die.
1863 Second major epidemic of smallpox in England lasts until 1865. 20,000 die.
1867 Vaccination Act of 1867 in England begins to elicit protest from the population and increase in the number of anti-vaccination groups. It compelled the vaccination of a baby within the first 90 days of its life. Those who objected would be continually badgered by magistrates and fined until the child turned 14. The law was passed on the assurance of medical officials that smallpox vaccinations were safe.
1867 Nonpayment of fines for skipping smallpox vaccination result in harsh penalties.
1870 Third major smallpox epidemic in England begins and lasts until 1872. Over 44,800 dies.
1871 In Birmingham, England from 1871 to 1874, there were 7,706 cases of smallpox. Out of these, 6,795 had been vaccinated.
1871 Worldwide epidemic of smallpox begins. Claims 8 million people worldwide.
1871 Select committee of the Privy Council convened to inquire into the Vaccination Act of 1867 (England), as 97.5% of the people who died from smallpox were vaccinated for it.