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Smallpox was once a common epidemic disease that killed, blinded or disfigured its victims. In the eighteenth century its impact was reduced in Europe by a Chinese practice called variolation, the injection of smallpox fluid from an infected human into a healthy human. In 1798, Edward Jenner proposed a safer modification of variolation, called vaccination, which involved the injection of fluid from an infected cow into human beings. He based his suggestion on experiments he had first carried out in 1796, after many years of observations. On 14 May 1796 he inoculated cowpox from the hand of Sarah Nelmes into the arm of James Phipps, said to have been aged about eight years. On 12 July 1796 he inoculated Phipps with smallpox, but the smallpox did not have any effect, demonstrating the protective effects of the cowpox.
Edward Jenner Vaccinating a Boy
oil on canvas
H 73.1 x W 92.7 cm