Naked Science Forum

On the Lighter Side => That CAN'T be true! => Topic started by: JimBob on 29/04/2010 03:28:15

Title: Did you know that Small Pox Innoculation WAS NOT discovered by the British?
Post by: JimBob on 29/04/2010 03:28:15
Did you know that one of General George Washington's staff surgeon's knowledge of the knowledge of one of his African slave's cure for small pox of innoculation? The slave had been innoculated while still free in Africa. This was one of the first recorded instances of small pox innoculation and it led to the independence of the 13 colonies from England.

Take that, Limeys!!! (really, I should say "Take that, Edward Jenner," who made the 'discovery' in 1796 from observations of cowpox)

The except below is from "Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book" which record the conditions made for the Surgeon General of the Continental Army By his Ranking surgeon at Washington's Valley Forge Encampment winter of 1777-78.

"Small Pox Innoculation

"There was satisfaction expressed by the Commander-in-Chief [Gen. George Washington] concerning innoculation against small pox but a warning was issued: March 18, 1778. "Innoculation for the small pox having been haply performed in all the subjects in camp it is necessary to guard [against] the fatal effects of that disorder taken in the natural way."

These were actual inoculations where the skin was broken and live small pox from a patient's pustules were introduced into the wound.

But this is not the first recorded instance of immunization against small pox in English speaking countrys. Accounts of the process in China and India in the 10th Century are known and "variolation," the process of blowing small pox scabs up the nose of uninfected people were practiced in the middle east and in England later.

"Variolation was also practiced throughout the latter half of the 17th century by physicians in Turkey, Persia, and Africa. In 1714 and 1716 two reports of the Turkish method of inoculation were made to the Royal Society in England, by Emmanuel Timoni, a doctor affiliated with the British Embassy in Istanbul,[7]  and Giacomo Pylarini. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the British ambassador, is widely credited with introducing the process to Great Britain in 1721. The procedure had been performed on her son and daughter, aged 5 and 4 respectively. They both recovered quickly. In 1721, an epidemic of smallpox hit London and left the British Royal Family in fear.[7]  Reading of Lady Wortley Montagu’s efforts, they wanted to use inoculation on themselves. Doctors told them that it was a dangerous procedure, so they decided to try it on other people first. The test subjects they used were condemned prisoners. The doctors inoculated the prisoners and all of them recovered in a couple of weeks. So assured, the British royal family inoculated themselves and reassured the English people that it was safe."

Title: Re: Did you know that Small Pox Innoculation WAS NOT discovered by the British?
Post by: jerbar on 08/01/2012 11:03:41
Edward Jenner did not discover inoculation but vaccination of smallpox. Whereas inoculation prevented most of getting a violent clinical status of the disease and decreased the death rate, vaccination permitted a 100% protection against smallpox and its eradication in the early 1980’s.

Inoculation is taking the virus from a sick person and transmitting it to a healthy person in small quantities hopping to develop this person’s defense mechanism but with the risk of infecting him.

Vaccination has different ways of working: in the case of smallpox it was using a similar virus (cowpox) which is very benign against humans (only a few pustules on the site of contamination/injection) but triggers the same defense mechanism. Other vaccines use a ‘’killed’’ or ‘’downgraded’’ version of the infectious virus.

Jenner who lived on the English southern coast had a tendency to sleep with a lot of different women whether local peasant girls or city summer tourists. His genius was to observe that the city girls more often had and ugly smallpox distorted skin covering large areas of their bodies whereas peasant girls did not. Not only that, but the peasant girls had scars only in certain spots of their bodies: their hands. He deduced from this that these scars came from a virus (although he did not know about viruses in those days but supposed there was some kind of infectious agent) similar to smallpox but not deadly at all : cowpox. Which the peasant girls would get by milking cows with their hands. But which would also prevent them from getting smallpox. Thus by experimenting on a child, Jenner took pus from a infected cow and directly injected to the child (after payment to the father), and then injected smallpox which did not provoke a disease. Although Jenner was ridiculed by the royal academy, his discovery eventually made its way through the late 19th century and early 20th century finally being accepted and widely used. There was one danger with the early technique: in those days there was no way to prove that the pus on the cow or horse used was from smallpox and not another disease (for example tuberculosis quite common in cows). Later the use of another virus and better technique prevented this. This virus being the named the virus of the Vaccine. The word of vaccination comes from the latin vacca meaning the cow, in honor of Jenner’s discovery.

By the 1790’s inoculation was a common practice in Europe as getting smallpox was considered a fatal truth no one could avoid. Thus it was better to be inoculated by a small quantity of virus when you were young and strong to trigger your immune system (or your body defence mechanism) than to get an infectious dose later. Inoculation had actually been discovered in China nearly 800 years before (with a rate of failure sometimes as deadly as a natural infection itself)

The Americans only used this basic European knowledge to their use when smallpox finally broke out in America in the 1770’s

What the physician did at Valley Forge was nothing more than quick thinking and a rather efficient practical use of that knowledge. This event is no scientific breaktrough. The only "incredible" aspects of this mass inoculation is : 1) to have saved the continental army and 2) to have produced a "experimental ground" where you could easily count dead and survivors from the inoculation and thus evaluate the efficacy of the inoculation techniques of that era. And 1 out of 50 is an ok result but nothing great, if nowadays every vaccination killed 2% of the population then a lot of people wouldn’t reach the age of 20.

One big difference in this last aspect is that if you get smallpox from after inoculation, than it’s the inoculation that killed you, if it’s after a vaccination than it’s that the vaccination is to recent to effectively protect you or that someone put water in your shot.

So no, Inoculation was not discovered by the British (nor was it discovered by the Americans) but vaccination sure was. And just in case, I am not British but American and not of British descent, but fact stays fact.
Title: Re: Did you know that Small Pox Innoculation WAS NOT discovered by the British?
Post by: cheryl j on 10/01/2012 13:19:40
Someone who gets overlooked in the history of small pox vaccination is Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of an ambassador who, according to Wikipedia, "observed smallpox inoculation during her stay in the Ottoman Empire, writing detailed accounts of the practice in her letters, and enthusiastically promoted the procedure in England upon her return in 1718."