Vaccine Mythology Part 3

Who was Edward Jenner and how did vaccination start?

In the previous article, we saw how the smallpox vaccine was not successful in eradicating smallpox. In this article I want to look at the background as to why this failed. How did vaccination start and where did the idea come from? I refer again to the Science Museum to give us the official narrative:

Smallpox and vaccination are intimately connected. Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine to prevent smallpox infections, and this success led to the global eradication of smallpox and the development of many more life-saving vaccines.

Science Museum, Smallpox and the story of vaccination. https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/medicine/smallpox-and-story-vaccination

We know from the previous article that it was not successful. Where did Jenner get the idea for vaccination from? The BBC (who also promote the official narrative on vaccines) provide the answer:

In 1796, he [Jenner] carried out his now famous experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps. Jenner inserted pus taken from a cowpox pustule and inserted it into an incision on the boy’s arm. He was testing his theory, drawn from the folklore of the countryside, that milkmaids who suffered the mild disease of cowpox never contracted smallpox, one of the greatest killers of the period, particularly among children.1

I added emphasis to the words that stood out to me. What does it mean that Jenner’s theory was “drawn from the folklore of the countryside”. The Merriam Webster dictionary2 defines folklore as “an often unsupported notion, story, or saying that is widely circulated” and makes is synonymous with mythology, legend or tradition. So Jenner based his theory on a myth or an unsupported but widely circulated belief. Dr Charles Creighton, speaking in 1889 ridicules the very idea:

This disease [Cowpox] was fancifully represented as an amulet or charm against smallpox, by the idle gossip of credulous persons who listened only to the jingle of the names. The milkers themselves must have had the hard teaching of experience and the light of common sense to keep their credulity in check, while the medical men who were called to treat the milkers’ sores, as well as the cow-doctors, would be puzzled to see where the resemblance to smallpox came in. A fancy of that kind could not exist along with real, even if empirical, knowledge of the two diseases, let alone the frequent experience that cowpoxed milkers could be inoculated with smallpox, or could catch smallpox like otherpersons. The fancy was the result of a merely notional, nominal, or verbal dealing with the matter. The kind of apprehension hardly deserves even to be called notional ; for, to a pathologist or epidemiologist, it is as truly nonsense to speak of cowpox becoming smallpox as it is legitimate nonsense to prove that a horse-chest nut is a chestnut horse.3

This brings other phrases to my mind: superstition, old wives tales and fables. Creighton’s reference to amulets or charms brings to the mind the Biblical root word pharmakia which is translated as witchcraft. We derive the words pharmacy and pharmaceutical from this root word and it is condemned strongly in the Bible.4 It is detested by God and in the end times, he will judge the nations for this. But back to the subject, Dr. Creichton notes that the idea that cowpox can protect from smallpox is “fanciful” and implies that an “empirical knowledge” of the two diseases means that one cannot support Jenner’s theory. He also calls the belief “idle gossip” and “truly nonsense” and he does not mince his word. He says that both the doctors and the vets would have been puzzled to find any resemblance between smallpox and cowpox. Dr. James M. Peebles concurred and referred to another medical authority:

Dr. Seaton, a high authority, says : “It is quite out of the question that cow-pox on the human subject should have been transformed into small-pox.” The two diseases, therefore, being specifically different, neither can have any effect to ward off the other. Why not inoculate with erysipelas to prevent small- pox? It would be just as rational, just as scientific, and to my mind, just as efficient.5

Jenner’s theory was apparently not accepted by his peers. The aforementioned Dr. Walter Hawden told us:

When he first of all heard the story of the cow-pox legend that the dairymaids talked about, that if you only had cow-pox you can’t have small-pox, he began to mention it at the meetings of the Medico-convivial Society, where the old doctors of the day met together to smoke their pipes, drink their glasses of grog, and talk over their cases. But he no sooner mentioned it than they laughed at it. The cow doctors could have told him of hundreds of cases where small-pox had followed cow-pox, and Jenner found he would have to drop it…In 1796, however, he performed his first experiment as it is called…6

Jenner was only 13 when he almost certainly heard of Fewster’s observation. He eventually became a member of the medical society that met at The Ship, and records show he became known as “the cowpox bore” for his obsession with the topic in the members’ debates. He had nearly 30 years to ponder cowpox and smallpox before testing his theory in 1796 by vaccinating young James Phipps.7

So Jenner’s peers laughed at his theory and they eventually got bored with it. Observe that “he eventually became a member of the medical society” which implies that there was a delay to his membership. What caused that delay? It is very likely to be due to the delay and method with which he obtained his academic credentials and medical licence which will be covered shortly.

I want to refer back to Dr James Peebles who told us:

Small-pox inoculation, the forerunner and parent of vaccination, like its successor, was derived from a superstition practiced by the common people, which has come to be styled “the tradition of the dairy maids.” Jenner derived his earliest idea of vaccination—while yet a student of medicine—from a young country woman who had contracted cow-pox. Smallpox inoculation was derived, not from scientific experimentation, but from a superstition practiced by the common people in India since the sixth century. The fad having once become the fashion, the doctors adopted and bowed to it as a fetish which must not be questioned ; and after the people had thoroughly learned by sad experience that it was a public curse and not a blessing, rose in revolt against it, still the doctors—who were now reaping a fat revenue from the practice—continued in the vigorous defence of the superstition, and in the persecution and misrepresentation of the reformers who had arisen to overthrow it.8

Peebles observes that the smallpox inoculation from superstition and not “scientific experimentation” and it took hold in the medical professional because of the profits it can generate. Well that certainly explains a lot. Vaccination today is still a profitable industry and this will be a subject for another post. Jenner’s theory (and eventually Jenner himself) was met with derision and ridicule by the medical establishment of his day and with good reason.

Did Jenner have medical qualifications?

I was intrigued to read this statement by a pro-vaxxer:

When Edward Jenner introduced smallpox inoculation at the end of the 18th century he was widely derided as yet another quack trying to make a quick fortune. Envious rivals were swift to point out his lack of professional qualifications, while one satirist imagined his children turning into cows after being vaccinated…9

This pro-vaxxer is complaining about people like me writing articles like this. She complains that “envious rivals were swift to point out his lack of professional qualifications” but she does not dispute it. Her best defence is throwing mud, smearing the critics as “envious” and then moving on to her next point. If “envious rivals” were swift to point out Jenner’s lack of professional qualifications then they must have had grounds for doing so. If they were sincerely misinformed or maliciously deceitful, they could have been refuted with documentary evidence. As a side note, there was nothing for Jenner’s critics to be envious about. Jenner’s theories were a complete disaster and, as we have seen, failed to live up to expectations. Let’s dig deeper into the question of Jenner’s credentials.

Did Edward Jenner have medical qualifications? An online Encyclopedia entry on Jenner tells us:

Edward Jenner (1749–1823) was a British family doctor who practiced throughout his life in the village of Berkeley, Gloucestershire. He apprenticed for two years with John Hunter, then the preeminent medical teacher in Britain, but never took any examinations to obtain a medical degree. Instead, he purchased a medical degree from a Scottish university and later applied for and was granted an M.D. degree from Oxford University. He was keenly interested in all aspects of natural history, and he wrote a notebook describing the habits and habitats of birds in his district. A man with considerable intellectual and leadership qualities, he also founded a local medical society that survived for many generations.10

Note that Jenner took any examinations to obtain his medical degree – he had to buy it. The Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Jenner dresses this up in an interesting way:

Jenner was born at a time when the patterns of British medical practice and education were undergoing gradual change. Slowly the division between the Oxford- or Cambridge-trained physicians and the apothecaries or surgeons—who were much less educated and who acquired their medical knowledge through apprenticeship rather than through academic work—was becoming less sharp, and hospital work was becoming much more important.11

This is a creative way of papering over the cracks. Britannica do not want to draw attention to Jenner’s lack of academic credentials but they also do not want to make a false statement. Reading between the lines, they are admitting that Jenner had no formal qualifications.

Dr. Walter Hawden expanded on this:

Now this man Jenner had never passed a medical examination in his life. He belonged to the good old times when George 111. was King— (laughter)—when medical examinations were not compulsory. Jenner looked upon the whole thing as a superfluity, and he hung up “Surgeon, apothecary,” over his door without any of the qualifications that warranted the assumption. It was not until twenty years after he was in practice that he thought it advisible to get a few letters after his name. Consequently he then communicated with a Scotch University and obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine for the sum of £15 and nothing more. (Laughter.) It is true that a little while before, he had obtained a Fellowship of the Royal Society. but his latest biographer and apologist, Dr. Norman Moore, had to confess that it was obtained by little less than a fraud. It was obtained by writing a most extraordinary paper about a fabulous cuckoo, for the most part composed of arrant absurdities and imaginative freaks such as no ornithologist of the present day would pay the slightest heed to. A few years after this, rather dissatisfied with the only medical qualification he had obtained, Jenner communicated with the University of Oxford and asked them to grant him their honorary degree of M.D., and after a good many fruitless attempts he got it. Then he sent to the Royal College of Physicians in London to get their diploma, and even presented his Oxford degree as an argument in his favour. But they considered he had had quite enough on the cheap already, and told him distinctly that until he passed the usual examinations they were not going to give him any more. This was a sufficient check in Jenner’s case, and he settled down quietly without any diploma of physician.12

Jenner’s lack of medical expertise would certainly explain why Jenner’s experiments were based upon mythology and why many of his contemporaries (and later doctors) ridiculed and dismissed his theories. This is why I titled this series “Vaccine Mythology” because Edward Jenner built his entire system upon a myth from dairy farmers. In turn, the mainstream narrative on vaccines promotes the myth that Jenner’s vaccines were safe and effective. It is one myth on top of another. Jenner obtained his medical degree by some “extraordinary paper about a fabulous cuckoo” which just about sums it up. Perhaps a cuckoo would have been more sympathetic to Jenner’s ideas than his medical peers. We could conclude that the official vaccine narrative is a fairy tale about milkmaids, cows and a quack doctor living in cloud cuckoo land.

In future articles I will be reviewing the abortion connection, the financial incentives behind vaccine corruption, polio and many other topics. Please stay tuned.

1BBC History 2014. https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/jenner_edward.shtml

2https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/folklore

3Charles Creighton MD, SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., PATERNOSTER SQUARE. 1889. Page 34 https://ia800904.us.archive.org/23/items/JennerAndVaccinationCharlesCreighton/Jenner%20and%20Vaccination%2C%20Charles%20Creighton.pdf

4This is not to say that every product sold in a pharmacy is condemned. Many drugs are based on purely organic and natural processes and therefore healthy. Others, however, are very questionable. It is outside the scope of this paper to digress into this.

5 Ibid, p27.

6Walter Hawden J.P., M.D., L.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., L.S.A. The Case Against Vaccination, http://pro-decizii-informate.ro/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1896-Dr-Walter-Hadwen-The-case-against-vaccination.pdf

7NPR: What’s The Real Story About The Milkmaid And The Smallpox Vaccine? February 1, 2018 https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/02/01/582370199/whats-the-real-story-about-the-milkmaid-and-the-smallpox-vaccine?t=1648192171460

8J. M. Peebles. A. M., M. D., Ph. D. Vaccination: A Curse and a Menace to Personal Liberty BATTLE CREEK, MICH., THE TEMPLE OF HEALTH PUBLISHING CO., UPTON COURT, 1900. p14

9Patricia Fara, History Today, The Original Anti-Vaxxers, 1st January 2021. https://www.historytoday.com/archive/history-matters/original-anti-vaxxers

10Encyclopedia of Public Health Last, John M. Encyclopedia.Com, May 17th 2018 https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/medicine/medicine-biographies/edward-jenner

11Lester S. King, Britannica entry on Edward Jenner https://www.britannica.com/science/smallpox

12Walter Hawden J.P., M.D., L.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., L.S.A, page 7. The Case Against Vaccination, p14 http://pro-decizii-informate.ro/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1896-Dr-Walter-Hadwen-The-case-against-vaccination.pdf

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