Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/127

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117
PREVENTIVE INOCULATION.

in them was infectious to others, and unprotected persons coming in contact with the inoculated were likely to get infected from them. The latter result was largely avoided by the practice adopted by the Brahmans of inoculating all the inhabitants of a family or village at the same time. The benefits secured under the above precautions were considered far to outweigh the risks of inoculation.

With the extension of smallpox westward the system of artificial protection spread toward Europe through the intermediary of travelers and merchants. The Arabs and Turks appreciated its benefits at an early date. The slave dealers supplying the bazaars and harems of Constantinople adopted the system to protect against disfigurement their Circassian and other live stock. In the early part of the eighteenth century the method was made known to the English practitioners by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the English ambassador at Constantinople, who had her two children inoculated according to the Turkish system. Curiously enough, it was soon afterward discovered that a similar method was in practice among the peasants of some of the districts in Wales and the Highlands of Scotland, and had long been known there as 'buying the smallpox.' When inoculation was given a more extensive trial it was found, in England as in the East, that the effect of it was decidedly beneficial, but fraught with danger. At first one in every fifty of those operated upon succumbed to the consequences of inoculation. By improved methods the mortality was gradually reduced to one in a thousand; but the most serious danger lay in the spread of infection to healthy persons. The precaution of inoculating whole groups of inhabitants at one time, or of keeping the inoculated apart from the healthy, as had been practiced by the Brahmans ages ago, was overlooked, and the result was often disastrous to the community.

 

It was at this time that Jenner achieved great progress and threw a vast amount of new light on the question. As is well known, he started from a belief that existed in the west of England, that cowpox was a bovine form of smallpox, and that the milkers who attended on cows suffering from that disease and who became infected with the eruptions on the teats and udders, passed through a mild illness, which rendered them immune against smallpox. Jenner determined to put this tradition to the test, and succeeded in establishing, by a few accurate and well-planned experiments, a series of most important facts.

He showed, first, that cowpox could be artificially given to the cow by infecting it with virus from a smallpox patient, and that the disease thus produced was transferable by inoculation from cow to cow.

He showed further, that by having been bred in the tissues of the cow, the virus lost its intense infective properties for man. When