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Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner

Edward in the prime of his studies
BornMay 17, 1749
Berkeley, Gloucestershire
Died26 January 1823 (aged 73)
Berkeley, Gloucestershire
Alma materSt George's, University of London
Academic advisor  John Hunter
Known forsmallpox vaccine

Edward Jenner, FRS, (May 17 1749 – January 26 1823) was an English scientist who studied his natural surroundings in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. He is famous as the first doctor to introduce and study the smallpox vaccine, although Benjamin Jesty, a farmer, earlier had vaccinated with cowpox to induce immunity to smallpox. It is believed that Jenner discovered it independently.


Early life of Edward Jenner

Jenner trained in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire as an apprentice to Dr. Ludlow, a surgeon, for eight years from the age of 13. In 1770 Jenner went up to London to study surgery and anatomy under the surgeon John Hunter and others at St George's, University of London. Hunter was a noted experimentalist, and later a fellow of the Royal Society.

William Osler records that Jenner was a student to whom Hunter repeated William Harvey's advice, very famous in medical circles (and characteristically Enlightenment), "Don't think, try". Jenner therefore was early noticed by men famous for advancing the practice and institutions of medicine. Hunter remained in correspondence with him over natural history and proposed him for the Royal Society. Returning to his native countryside, by 1773 he became a successful general practitioner and surgeon, practicing in purpose-built premises at Berkeley.

Jenner and others formed a medical society in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, meeting to read papers on medical subjects and dine together. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia and valvular disease of the heart and commented on cowpox. He also belonged to a similar society which met in Alveston, near Bristol.[1]

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1788, following a careful study combining observation, experiment and dissection into a description of the previously misunderstood life of the cuckoo in the nest.

  Jenner's description of the newly-hatched cuckoo pushing its host's eggs and fledglings from the nest was confirmed in the 20th century[2] when photography became feasible. Having observed the behaviour, he demonstrated an anatomical adaptation for it—the baby cuckoo has a depression in its back which is not present after 12 days of life, in which it cups eggs and other chicks to push them out of the nest. It had been assumed that the adult bird did this, but the adult does not remain in the area for sufficiently long. His findings were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1787.

He married Catherine Kingscote (died 1815 from tuberculosis) in March 1788 having met her when balloons were hot science, and he and other Fellows were experimenting with them. His trial balloon descended into Kingscote Park, owned by Anthony Kingscote, Catherine being one of his three daughters.

In 1792, he obtained his M.D. from the University of St Andrews.


In 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component. Although it was declared eradicated, some samples still remain in laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and Moscow.



  • Jenner's house is now a small museum housing among other things the horns of the cow Blossom. It lies in the Gloucestershire village of Berkeley.
  • The word vaccination comes from the Latin vaccinia, cowpox, from vacca, cow.
  • Jenner was buried in the chancel of the parish church of Berkeley.
  • A statue, by Robert William Sievier, was erected in the nave of Gloucester Cathedral.
  • A statue was erected in Trafalgar Square, later moved to Kensington Gardens.[1]
  • Near the small Gloucestershire village of Uley, Downham Hill is locally known as 'Smallpox Hill', with a possible connection to Jenner's local work with the disease.[citation needed]
  • St George's, University of London has a wing named after him as well as a bust of him.[3]
  • A small grouping of villages in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, United States, were named in honour of Jenner by early 19th century English settlers, including what are now the towns of Jenners, Jenner Township, Jenner Crossroads and Jennerstown, Pennsylvania. The towns collectively have a population of about 6000.


  • 1798 An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ
  • 1799 Further Observations on the Variolœ Vaccinœ
  • 1800 A Continuation of Facts and Observations relative to the Variolœ Vaccinœ 40pgs
  • 1801 The Origin of the Vaccine Inoculation 12pgs

See also


  • Papers at the Royal College of Physicians
  • Baron, John M.D. F.R.S., "The Life of Edward Jenner MD LLD FRS", Henry Colburn, London, 1827.
  • Edward Jenner, the man and his work. BMJ 1949 E Ashworth Underwood
NAME Jenner, Edward
SHORT DESCRIPTION English doctor, introduced and studied the smallpox vaccine
DATE OF BIRTH May 17 1749
PLACE OF BIRTH Gloucestershire
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Edward_Jenner". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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