Dr. Edward Jenner and His Legacy commemorates the 225th anniversary of Jenner’s innovative contribution to vaccinology. Through the centuries, millions of people perished from smallpox with many survivors often blinded or left with disfiguring scars. Seeking a safer and more effective alternative to the commonly practiced variolation (inoculation with smallpox virus), Jenner applied what he learned from local farmers, laborers, and physicians to vaccinate little James Phipps on May 14, 1796. The method involved using “cowpox” from a milkmaid’s hand, followed six weeks later by an immunologic challenge with smallpox inoculum to demonstrate protection from the dreaded disease. Jenner’s published accounts of this clinical trial and similar critical observations brought needed recognition to the hypothesis of conferred immunity. Remarkably, less than two centuries after Jenner’s historic procedure, the World Health Organization declared naturally-occurring smallpox to be eradicated. This exhibit presents materials highlighting Jenner’s initial experiment, public opposition to cowpoxing, smallpox outbreaks in Charlotte, vaccine development for other diseases (including COVID-19), and medical text descriptions about smallpox from days of old. You are welcome to browse this digital exhibit and visit the main floor exhibit in the Atkins Library (through July 2021) to discover more about Jenner’s enduring legacy in the history of medicine!
The smallpox vaccine paved the way for vaccines against other dreaded diseases. Stamps depicting Dr. Louis Pasteur of France and his rabies vaccine were kindly loaned to the Atkins Library by Dr. Daniel Rabinovich of the UNC Charlotte Department of Chemistry.