Swaminathan Madhuresan smadhuresan at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 5 19:57:22 UTC 2000

Dr. Wujastyk wrote:
 >The earliest evidence for smallpox inoculation (completely different from
 >vaccination, of course) comes from Chinese sources.  More on this in
 >Chang's paper in the recently published Contagion book.

 >Inoculation was never "discovered" by western medicine.  The practice was
 >noticed in the bazaars of Istanbul by Lady Wortley Montague in the
 >mid-eighteenth century, and she had her children inoculated.  She then
 >carried out a personal campaign to promote inoculation back in
 >England.  This was partly successful, though controversial.  Inoculation
 >was eclipsed from the late 1790s by Jenner's famous discoveries.

"The matter of Smallpox", 83-91, Samuel Wilson,
The Emepror's giraffe and other stories of cultures in contact,
Westview press, 1999. Enjoyed reading this book.

"Jenner was not the first to notice that contracting cowpox
could save a person from getting a fatal version of samallpox
later. It was part of local knowledge in rural Britain. Milkmaids
routinely caught cowpox; afterward, they almost never contracted
smallpox. But Jenner's experiments convinced the medical community
that immunization was the best way of fighting smallpox and
made cowpox the method of choice.
 Inoculation with smallpox itself, also called variolation, appears
to have been common for centuries among rural populations
throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Correspondence in the archives
of the Royal Society of London shows that English travelers had
observed the practice in China before 1700. Several generations
before Jenner's experiments, a furious debate had raged among
physicians and town councils in Europe and America over whether
inoculation with the "matter" of samllpox should be allowed.
In the 1720s, in Boston and other New England towns, a war of
pamphlets and posters was waged for and against the practice.
 The Puritan minister and prolific writer Cotton Mather
(1663-1728) learned of smallpox inoculation from a man named
Onisemus, who had been brought as a slave from Africa.
Mather asked other people brought from Africa about the
practice and found that it was commonly done there. Given the
tremendous threat of smallpox epidemics in the new Americam
colonies, he became a strong proponent of inoculation with
smallpox. In his small book titled An aacount of the method
and successes of inoculating the Small-Pox, printed in London
in 1722, he gave a step-by-step description of the procedure.
 The dedication to Mather's book, written by J. Dummer, affirmed
that the idea that inoculation with smallpox could prevent
the disease was not at all new:

 The practice of ingrafting the Small-Pox has been used from Time
 immemorial among the Circassians, and for many Years past in
 the Levant, yet it is a new Thing in these Parts of Europe,
 and still more so in America: And as all new Discoveries,
 however rational in themselves, and beneficial to Mankind,
 are receiv'd at first with Opposition, none has met with
 greater than this in New England.

 In the late 1600s, the practice of inoculation with smallpox
had been described in Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean, and
seems to have been widely used throughout Europe. Peasants called
the rather dangerous practice "buying the smallpox", and most
contemporary accounts noted (with either praise or contempt)
that old women were the ones who knew how to inoculate people.
A highly respected London physician of the early eighteenth
century, for example, wrote derisively that "posterity will
scarcely be brought to believe that a method practiced only by
a few Ignorant Women, amongst an illiterate and unthinking
People should .. be received into the Royal Palace"
(quoted in Sterns 1950)."

It looks inoculation was widely in use in Europe dating to
atleast 17th century.


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