Edward Anthony Jenner

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Edward Anthony Jenner

Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: The Old Vicarage, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England
Death: January 26, 1823 (73)
The Chantry, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England (apoplexy - stroke)
Place of Burial: Church of St. Mary's, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Stephen Jenner and Sarah Jenner
Husband of Catherine Jenner
Father of Catherine Fitzhardinge Jenner; Edward Robert Jenner and Robert Fitzhardinge Jenner
Brother of Anne Davies; Rev. Stephen Jenner and Henry Jenner

Managed by: Private User
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About Edward Anthony Jenner

Edward Anthony Jenner (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English physician and scientist from Berkeley, Gloucestershire, who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine. He is often called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other man".

Early life

Edward Jenner was born on 17 May 1749 (6 May Old Style) in Berkeley, as the eighth of nine children. His father was the vicar of Berkeley, so Jenner received a strong basic education. Jenner trained from the age of 13 for eight years in Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, as an apprentice to Daniel Ludlow, a surgeon . In 1770 Jenner became apprenticed in surgery and anatomy under surgeon John Hunter and others at St George's Hospital.

William Osler records that Hunter gave Jenner William Harvey's advice, very famous in medical circles (and characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment), "Don't think; try." Hunter remained in correspondence with Jenner over natural history and proposed him for the Royal Society. Returning to his native countryside by 1773, Jenner became a successful family doctor and surgeon, practicing on dedicated premises at Berkeley.

Jenner and others formed the Fleece Medical Society or Gloucestershire Medical Society, so called because it met in the parlor of the Fleece Inn, Rodborough, in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, meeting to dine together and read papers on medical subjects. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia, and cardiac valvular disease and commented on cowpox. He also belonged to a similar society that met in Alveston, near Bristol.

Natural history, science and marriage

Jenner was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1788, following his publication of a careful study of the previously-misunderstood life of the nested cuckoo that combined observation, experiment, and dissection.

Jenner married Catherine Kingscote (died 1815 from tuberculosis) in March 1788 after meeting her while he and other Fellows were experimenting with balloons. Jenner's trial balloon descended into Kingscote Park, Gloucestershire, owned by Anthony Kingscote, one of whose daughters was Catherine.

Jenner earned his MD from the University of St Andrews in 1792.

Jenner is also credited with advancing understanding of angina pectoris. In his correspondence with Heberden, he wrote, "How much the heart must suffer from the coronary arteries not being able to perform their functions."


Inoculation was already a standard practice but involved serious risks. In 1721 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had imported variolation to Britain after having observed it in Istanbul, where her husband was the British ambassador. Voltaire, writing of this, estimates that at this time 60% of the population caught smallpox and 20% of the population died of it. Voltaire also states that the Circassians used the inoculation from times immemorial, and the custom may have been borrowed by the Turks from the Circassians.

Noting the common observation that milkmaids were generally immune to smallpox, Jenner postulated that the pus in the blisters that milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected them from smallpox. He may already have heard of Benjamin Jesty's success.

On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, a boy eight years old (the son of Jenner's gardener), with pus scraped from the cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide now hangs on the wall of the St George's medical school library (now in Tooting). Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner's first paper on vaccination.........

  • Known: Smallpox is more dangerous than variolation and cowpox less dangerous than variolation.
  • Hypothesis: Infection with cowpox gives immunity to smallpox.
  • Test: If variolation after infection with cowpox fails to produce a smallpox infection, immunity to smallpox has been achieved.
  • Consequence: Immunity to smallpox can be induced much more safely than by variolation.

Jenner continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, which did not publish the initial paper. After revisions and further investigations, he published his findings on the 23 cases. Some of his conclusions were correct, some erroneous; modern microbiological and microscopic methods would make his studies easier to reproduce. The medical establishment, cautious then as now, deliberated at length over his findings before accepting them. Eventually, vaccination was accepted, and in 1840 the British government banned variolation – the use of smallpox – and provided vaccination – using cowpox – free of charge.


In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component. And although the disease was declared eradicated, some pus samples still remain in laboratories in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States and State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.

Jenner's vaccine also laid the foundation for contemporary discoveries in immunology, and the field he began may someday lead to cures for arthritis, AIDS, and many other diseases.

An illustrated history of smallpox eradication, Smallpox Zero, was published with the support of Sanofi Pasteur and distributed on May 17, 2010, in Geneva during an event sponsored by the World Health Organization. Smallpox Zero includes President Thomas Jefferson's letter of congratulations to Edward Jenner.


  • Jenner was a Freemason. He was initiated in the Lodge of Faith and Friendship No. 449, now Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship No. 270, which then met at the White Hart Inn, High Street, Berkeley, Gloucestershire; raised, 30 Dec 1802, aged 53; JW 1804, WM 1812. Exalted, RA Masonry, Apr 1804; acted several times as 3rdPrin, 1814.

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Edward Anthony Jenner's Timeline

May 17, 1749
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England
January 24, 1789
Age 39
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK
February 6, 1794
Age 44
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK
April 4, 1797
Age 47
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK
January 26, 1823
Age 73
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England
January 1823
Age 73
Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK