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EDWARD JENNER, M.D.
Of rhyme or metre could have power to move,
J E N N E R, M.D.
This celebrated man was born on the 17th of May, 1749. Ile was a native of Berkeley in Gloucestershire; of which place his father was vicar; his mother being descended from an ancient Berkshire family. Edward Jenner being in early life deprived of his father, the direction of his education devolved upon an elder brother, the Rev. Stephen Jenner; under whose superintendence he attained a respectable proficiency in the classics ; while at the same time his taste for natural history was rapidly developed. At the age of nine years he had made a collection of the nests of the various species of the dormouse; and was accustomed to employ in searching for fossils in the neighbourhood, the hours which boys usually devote to active recreation.
Being intended for the medical profession, Edward Jenner, in order that he might acquire a knowledge of surgery and pharmacy, was apprenticed to Mr. Daniel Ludlow, of Sudbury, near Bristol; and the period of his apprenticeship having expired, went in 1770 to complete his professional studies in London ; where he was a student at St. George's Hospital, and a resident, for two years, in the family of the celebrated John Hunter.
Jenner made many experiments for John Hunter, illustrative of his papers published in the "Observations on some parts of the Animal Economy.” Hunter's letters to Jenner make constant allusion to the labours here alluded to.
“I shall be glad,” he writes, " of your observations on the cuckoo, and upon the breeding of toads: be as particular as you possibly can. If you can pick me up anything that is curious, and prepare it for me, do it, either in the flesh or fish way.” Again : "I received yours, as also the cuckoo's stomach. I should like to have a few more of them, for I find they do not all show the same thing. If possible, I wish you would remove the cuckoo's egg into another bird's nest, and tame the young one, to see what note it has. There is employment for you, young man ! If you collect eggs, you should also collect the nests; and I do not care how many you send. I wanted a crow's nest, as also a magpie's, in the branches of the tree where they are built; but I am afraid it is now too late." ..."See if you can catch the number of pulsations, and the frequency of breathing, in the bat, without torture. If the frost is hard, see what vegetables freeze; bore holes in large trees, and see whether the sap runs out, which will show it is not frozen.”
In 1792 Jenner obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of St. Andrew's, and applied himself to perfect his discovery of the efficacy of vaccination as a preventive of Small Pox; a subject to which his attention had been directed in early life by an accidental circumstance. Whilst a pupil with Mr. Ludlow, a young countrywoman applied for medical advice. The subject of small-pox was mentioned : upon which the patient observed, “I cannot take that disease, for I have had the cow-pock.” This was sufficient to excite the attention of Jenner, and the incident never escaped his recollection.
In the course of his researches, Jenner was led to conclude, that swine-pock, as well as cow-pock, was only a variety of small-pox. He inoculated his eldest son with the matter of swine-pock, and produced a disease similar to a very mild small-pox. After this, the inoculation of variolous matter was found to produce no effect. He ascertained that cow-pock (as it was commonly termed by the milkers) would frequently fail in effecting a security against the small-pox. This led him to inquire more particularly into the variety of spontaneous eruptions to which the teats of the cow were liable; to discriminate the different kinds of sores produced by them on the hands of the milkers; and to establish the characteristics of those which possessed a specific power over the constitution, and of those which had no such efficacy. He found, that instances occurred in which the true cow-pock failed in preventing small-pox; but, nothing daunted by this apparently fatal discovery, he set about ascertaining the causes of this deviation. He ascertained the specific virtues of the virus to have been in such instances lost or deteriorated; so as to have been rendered capable of producing only a local affection, having no influence whatever upon the constitution; and, by the greatest ingenuity, and patience of observation of the analogies drawn from the virus of smallpox, aided by his knowledge of the laws of the animal economy, he ultimately discovered, that it was only in a certain state of the vesicle that the virus was capable of affording its protecting agency; and that, when taken under other conditions, or at other periods, it could indeed produce a local disease, but was not able to manifest any constitutional effect, or to afford security against the attack of the small-pox.
On the 14th of May, 1796, Jenner inserted lymph taken from the hand of Sarah Nelmes, who was infected with cow-pock, into the arms of James Phipps, a healthy EDWARD JENNER, M.D.
boy about eight years of age. This is the first instance of regular inoculation of the vaccine disease by Jenner. The boy went through the disorder, and on the 1st of July following he had the matter of small-pox introduced into his arms, but no effect followed. Jenner had not before witnessed the cow-pock, except as presented on the hands of the milkers ; nor had it before been transmitted from one human being to another. He was struck with its great resemblance to the small-pox, pustule. Success in this case must necessarily have operated powerfully upon Jenner's mind; and must have urged him to continue the research with increased energy. His anticipations thus realized ! his intentions accomplished ! what must have been the feelings of such a man as Jenner? They were suited to the magnitude of the occasion ; and exhibited the character of the philosopher, distinguished, as it ever was, by great simplicity, benevolence, and humility. “While (says he) the vaccine discovery was progressive, the joy I felt at the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities, blended with the fond hope of enjoying independence and domestic peace and happiness, was often so excessive, that, in pursuing my favourite subject among the meadows, I have sometimes found myself in a kind of reverie. It is pleasant to me to recollect, that these reflections always ended in devout acknowledgments to that Being from whom this and all other mercies flow.” Lord Bacon has said, that “it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.” Jenner is a striking illustration of the truth of this remark.
The modesty of Jenner was manifested in his original intention of submitting his observations on the cow-pock, in a paper addressed to the Royal Society. Dr. Baron tells us, that “when the subject was laid before the president, (the late Sir Joseph Banks) Jenner was given to understand, that he should be cautious and prudent; that he had already gained some credit by his communications to the Royal Society, and ought not to risk his reputation by presenting to the learned body anything which appeared so much at variance with established knowledge, and withal so incredible. The work, announcing this discovery most unostentatiously, about the end of June, 1798, was dedicated to his friend Dr. Parry, of Bath. Dr. Jenner visited London in the month of April in this year, and remained there until the 14th of July. His object in this visit was, to demonstrate the disease to his professional friends; but such was the distrust, or apathy, felt on the occasion, that Jenner absolutely returned to the country, without having been able to prevail on any one individual to submit to the inoculation of the virus ! Mr. Clyne, however, was induced to try, clandestinely, an experiment on a child; having succeeded, he became very sanguine as to the result, and inoculated three children with lymph taken from the vesicles of the same child, but no effect ensued. The time at which, in this case, the lymph was taken, has not been stated. The subject now began to excite the attention of the profession, and all were eager to put the matter to the test of experiment. Mr. Clyne urged Dr. Jenner to settle in London. He promised him £10,000 a year as the result of his practice. But Jenner, immovably attached to rural retirement, rejected the offer.
8. S. VOL. III.