Edward Jenner, creator of the world’s first vaccine, is said to have saved more lives through his work than anyone else. In the 18th century smallpox was widespread, killing eight out of ten children who caught the disease.
In 1796, testing the countryside folklore that milkmaids never caught smallpox, Jenner injected pus from the blisters on a milkmaid’s hand into the arm of eight-year-old James Phipps. This proved that contracting the relatively harmless cowpox provided immunity against the killer disease.
Jenner quickly saw that vaccination could annihilate smallpox, which he called “the most dreadful scourge of the human species”.
It was another 44 years before the UK Government provided free vaccination, and a further century passed before Jenner’s solution was taken up worldwide.
This is one of a series of stories about the impact of new thinkers, installed on the walls of the Islington head office of Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network.