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Edward Jenner's biomedical breakthrough
Edward Jenner learns from farmers in rural Avon in southwestern England that milkmaids previously taken ill with cowpox do not subsequently contract smallpox. The news prompts him to undertake studies on methods of vaccination. He finds that cowpox-derived immunity can be transferred from person to person through inoculation in the absence of naturally-occurring outbreaks of disease.
In 1798, Jenner presents his results to the Royal Society in a pamphlet entitled Variolae Vaccinae. He is credited with the first scientific demonstration of vaccination. Prior to this episode, reports of immunity transferred through variolation – inoculation with suppurated matter taken directly from infected sites on the body – were plentiful, dating back to antiquity and emanating from many different parts of the world.