15 Edward Jenner Facts

Here are 15 facts about Edward Jenner, the English scientist often referred to as ‘the father of immunology’.

  • Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire on 17th May 1749.
  • Jenner trained to be a doctor at St George’s Hospital. He set up as a family doctor in his home town of Berkeley.

  • He was a member of the Fleece Medical Society – a group of doctors and scientists who met regularly at the Fleece Inn in Rodborough to discuss medical issues and news.
  • Edward Jenner was a keen natural historian. He carried out research on the cuckoo and published his findings in 1788.
  • He became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
  • Edward Jenner worked with specimens gathered from James Cook’s voyage to the Pacific. He was offered the position of naturalist on the second of Cook’s voyages, but he decided to focus on his medical studies.
  • Jenner, perhaps influenced by the work of Benjamin Jesty, noticed that milkmaids were immune to smallpox (an infectious disease which causes pus-filled blisters to spread over the body and often resulted in death). He thought this was because the pus from blisters caused by cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox but less severe) protected the milkmaids from smallpox.
  • He tested the theory my inoculating a boy called James Phipps (the son of Jenner’s gardener) with pus from the cowpox blisters of Sarah Nelmes (a milkmaid). James experienced a fever, but he did not get smallpox.
  • Jenner repated the experiment on more than 20 people, proving that those he had incoculated with cowpox were immune to smallpox.
  • Edward Jenner was made Physician Extraordinary to King George IV. He was elected Mayor of Berkeley.
  • Jenner’s work on smallpox made him internationally famous and very wealthy.

Edward Jenner

  • When Britain was at war with France (in the early 1800s), Jenner wrote to Napoleon requesting that he release some British prisoners. As a mark of respect for all that Jenner had achieved, Napoleon agreed.
  • Edward Jenner died of a stroke on 25th January 1823. He was 73.
  • In 1840, years after his death, the British government provided the public with vaccination against smallpox (using cowpox) for free.
  • Smallpox was completely eradicated in 1979. He is buried at the Church of St Mary’s, Berkeley, England.
  • There is a statue of Edward Jenner in Kensington Gardens and another one in Gloucester Cathedral.