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Vaccination against smallpox—1806

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 15 April 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1061
  1. Jeremy Hugh Baron, honorary professorial lecturer
  1. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

    “That vaccination should occasion contention, was a thing of course; but this has been carried to unexpected lengths; for both those who approve, and those who disapprove, have accused each other of murdering their patients. It must be owned indeed, that on this occasion, there was superadded to the general tendency of doctors to differ, a particular motive which rarely fails to have that effect on all mankind. Small-pox was the source of no inconsiderable portion of the income of almost every medical practitioner; insomuch, that neither physicians nor surgeons would abandon this disease to the management of the other. The physicians claimed it as a contagious fever, and therefore a medical case; but as the surgeon was the inoculator, he did not choose to relinquish the profits of the subsequent treatment. While each was eager for the whole, it was hardly to be expected, that a plan to take it from both would be kindly received by either. Jenner's discovery was a touch-stone, to detect what proportion of selfishness alloyed the human heart. It was calculated to make known, whether the scenes of misery, which medical men are compelled to witness, blunt their feelings. The result has certainly reflected distinguished honour on the faculty; for the plans to exterminate the small-pox, has been zealously adopted by the medical men of every part of the world which it has reached.” Royston W. Historical sketch of the progress of medicine in the year 1806. Med Physical J 1807;18:1-43.

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