May 14: Tumours on the Axilla and other delightful tales of vaccination

You know what our problem is -- not just us a blog-readers, we have our own burdens, but us as a species? Edward Jenner knows:

THE DEVIATION of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases. From the love of splendour, from the indulgences of luxury, and from his fondness for amusement he has familiarised himself with a great number of animals, which may not originally have been intended for his associates.
To get the obligatory stuff out of the way: "familiarization with animals." Heh heh.

Not that I agree that, you know, yogurt is such an "indulgence of luxury," but you get the point. All civilization, to Jenner, is in some sense unnatural. (Note the 1798-style atheism where he questions whether the beasts of the field were intended for us.) I happen to agree, which is why I'm always skeptical of the anti-modern idea that there is some order of life X (where our world is not equal to X) that is "natural." It's tempting, I know, but you see a lot more people leaving their simple farms for modern fleshpots than the other way round; Mexico's not the one with the immigration problem. Not that McDonald's is the peak of civilization either, of course -- but when you have so many people alive on the earth as we do, some are going to try to improve Concentrated Solar Power and others are going to open McDonaldses.

And why do we have so many people on the earth? Because of Edward Jenner and his cockamamie notion of vaccination. Here he tells his own story, and its interesting to note that the first part of his hypothesis was all wrong, as a footnote tells us ("Jenner’s conclusion that “grease” and cow-pox were the same disease has since been proved erroneous"). So great oaks from invalid acorns grow.

What's interesting in this excerpt is Jenner's thoroughness. We are given twelve (out of twenty-three) case studies, each trying to prove a different facet of Jenner's hypothesis -- want a guy who had cowpox 53 years before Jenner tries to infect him with smallpox? Try Case III.
Want to know if smallpox makes you immune from cowpox? Try Case VII. Etc.

The other thing of note, of course, is how gross people must have looked in the old days:
William Stinchcomb was a fellow servant with Nichols at Mr. Bromedge’s farm at the time the cattle had the cow-pox, and he was, unfortunately, infected by them. His left hand was very severely affected with several corroding ulcers, and a tumour of considerable size appeared in the axilla of that side. His right hand had only one small tumour upon it, and no tumour discovered itself in the corresponding axilla.
You don't see guys like that on The Tudors, I'll tell you that much.

PS -- I also note that this is the first time I've cracked Volume 38 ("Harvey Jenner Lister Pasteur"), yet I've had to read Burns four bloody times already. It's a wonder scientists don't blow up the world out of spite.

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