Written by JulieW
(10/30/2003 3:01 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR: Childhood illnesses, penned by Line
Well, she could have suffered,and most horribly,for until Edward Jenner,menitoned by dear Laurie C below, made his discoveries regadring cowpox the innoculation process was rather fraught with danger.
Let us consider the history.
In 1717 Lady Mary Whortley Montague,who was the wife of the British Ambassador to Turkey, wrote home telling of the methold with which the Turks proctected aginst small pox- by" engrafting".
She had survived small pox in 1712,so she knew she was immune and so visited the old Greek ladies of Constantinople( modern Istanbul) to see exactly how they perfomred this miracle cure.
What they did was to engraft a small nut shell full of "the best small pox matter" onto the skin of the arm or forehead.It was likely to induce a mild does of the disease, which then gave the patient immunity to further attacks.
Remember that at this time medical science did not konw of the nature of a virus,and there were no inncculations for any other childhood viral diseases- such as scarlet fever or diptheria, .
An English surgeon attatched to the British Embassy in Constantinople was Charles Maitland.He had seen engrafting done.Lady Mary arranged for one of the Greek ladies to come to inncoluate her own son and he agreeed, reluctantly ,to be present.
When they all returnded to England, Lady Mary asked Maitland to innoculate her daughter.Uneasy about it, he nevertheless agreed.
News of the successful innocluaton spread.Indeed, Princess Caroline daughter-in-law of Geroge I asked the King for permission to inncoulate her children.A test was done on six criminals awaiting execution in Newgate prison.They all survived and were reprieved.Inncoulation of Princess Caroline's daughters went ahead without mishp.
Gradually the medical professions resistance to the idea of innoculation was broken down.However, there were problms caused by the physicain's refusal to perform the operation exactly as the old Greek ladies of Contantinople had done.The British doctors developed their own proceedure which was elbaborate,expensive and dangerous.
The system they invented was as follows:the patient to be inncoulated was purged,bled and stavred for days, sometimes weeks,before thr inncoluation was administered.Then the infective matter was inserted into a very deep cut- almost to the bone(!).
This medical "overkill" often resulted in failiure for the innoculaton to "take"-because the success of the vaccination depended upoon the virus being transmitted through the skin which gave the patients immune system time to combat the disease.And also exposed a dangerous wound which, in itself, was subject to infection,, in a time before the discovery of antibiotics.
So- despite complaints from Lady Mary that this practice was dampening the effect of the innoculation and was dangrous,the pysicians carried on endangering theiri patients in this wasy.
In fact by 1750 cutting to the bone was the standard procedure for those who could afford "the best" for their children.Often with disasterous reults.
By the 1780s two surgeons, Robert and Daniel Sutton of Essex had developed a less elaborate method of innoculation,which was very successful and less danger to the patient.Called the" Suttonian Method " it was not a really a new proceddure but a correction of the bad and dangerous medical practice that had developed.What they did was to stop the practice of "preparation"- the purging, bleeding and staving whihc weakened the immune system of teh patient so unnecessarily.
Edward Jenner learnt this method and practised it.However,as Laurie C has detailed below, he did begin, gradually, to make a conncetion between cow pox and the immunity it gave for small pox.
He collected case histories in his native Gloucestershire,and by 1798 printed his study.As it was a much safer inncoulation process it became ferociously successful,and its fame spread all over the world.
I ought to add that Jenner was spurred onto his course of study as a result of teh truama he suffered when given his own smallpox vaccination as a 7 year old.He was so traumatised he sufferede nightmares for years afterwards.
I hope this longish post has helped to explain exactly what the diffiuclties surrounding innoculation for small pox were, prior to Jenner's timely intervention.;-)
Gentleman's Daughter Group Read is maintained by Laraine with WebBBS 3.21.