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To what extent did the work of Edward Jenner aid the progression of medical knowledge and treatment?

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Introduction

To what extent did the work of Edward Jenner aid the progression of medical knowledge and treatment? Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was an English country doctor who practiced medicine in Gloucestershire. He is famous as the first doctor to introduce and study the smallpox vaccine. Smallpox (also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera) is a virus spread through coughing, sneezing and physical contact with an infected person. It once proved to be one of the biggest killer diseases, killing an estimated 60 million Europeans in the 18th century alone. In desperation, many infected persons turned to herbal treatments similar to those used by Grace Mildmay, a prodominant woman in the line of healing, during the seventeenth century. Innoculation was the first method of prevention in relation to smallpox. The observation of Chinese doctors led them to believe that speading matter from a smallpox scab onto an open cut in the skin protected people from the full severity of the disease. This was based on the fact thst those who had previously experienced a mild form of smallpox were more likely to survive later epidemics. ...read more.

Middle

Jenner published his findings in An enquiry into the causes and effects of Variola Vaccine, known by the name of cowpox in 1798. As a result, he received �30,000 with which to open a vaccination clinic in London. More than 100 leading doctors proclaimed their support by signing a declaration of confidence in his research. Despite apparent success, there was much opposition to vaccinations at first. There were many reasons for this. Some people had a dislike for anything new. Others were opposed to the lack of evidence supporting the theories. A number of people thought the vaccine to be dangerous as a result of doctors using infected needles or mixing up vaccines. Also, some doctors were unwilling to accept it as they stood to lose the money they currently received through innoculating people. Success was also hindered by the fact that vaccination was not free, meaning that those supporting it were not necessarily able to receive the vaccination. Jenner's theories were founded based on observation and scientific experimentation. The absence of advanced technology meant that Jenner was unable to identify the reasons as to why his vaccination worked. ...read more.

Conclusion

While it is known now that Jenner was correct in his findings, his inability to provide sufficient evidence to explain the success of his vaccine was a minor hinderance. The main reason for this was a lack of scientific technology. It is inarguable that the progression of such things, like microscopes, aids development of medical understanding. It led to a lack of public support, a crucial factor to the success of such procedures. The fact that the Royal Society refused to publish his research both reflected and supported the public view. This slowed progression until such a time that proof could be offered to add reliability. There is no doubt that the findings of Jenner were immensely valuable to long-term medical advancement. However, lack of proof meant that in the short-term, despite saving many lives, public support of the vaccine wavered and general acceptance was slow. Nevertheless, no matter which way you look at it, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated from nature to this day. Therefore, in direct answer to the proposed question, the findings of Edward Jenner have aided the progression of medial knowledge and treatment to a great extent. ...read more.

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