Immunisation: a Lady’s prerogative?

Many children today are introduced to Edward Jenner, widely accepted as the father of vaccination, early on in their education. However, far fewer people will have heard of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who was responsible for introducing inoculation against smallpox to Britain and Western Europe during the 1700’s.

After moving to Constantinople in the 1715, Lady Montagu witnessed Turkish women inoculating their children against smallpox. This was done by using scabs or pus from someone suffering from what was deemed to be a milder version of the disease and then puncturing the skin of the person being inoculated with a contaminated needle or sharp knife. Lady Montagu would go on to inoculate her own son and daughter and, via her privileged position in the English upper classes, publicise the benefits.

Jenner himself was inoculated in this manner as a child. The bleeding and purging process and the very real risk of death from smallpox using this method were believed to be key factors that started Jenner on the path for ‘an easier way’ to inoculate against this deadly virus.

The team from Accelerate Associates have been in the privileged position to have worked with many female scientists and inventors. However, in tribute to those that have gone before us, we thought Lady M should have her moment in the spotlight for her role in advancing the concept of immunisation.


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