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Edward Jenner



Edward Jenner, FRS, (May 17, 1749 – January 26, 1823) was an English country doctor who studied nature and his natural surroundings from childhood and practiced medicine in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. He is famous as the first doctor to introduce and study the smallpox vaccine. Jenner trained in Sodbury, Gloucestershire as an apprentice to Dr. Ludlow for 8 years from the age of 13, then went up to London in 1770 to study under the surgeon John Hunter (a noted experimentalist, and later a fellow of the Royal Society[1]) and others at St George's Hospital. William Osler records that Jenner was a student to whom Hunter repeated William Harvey's advice, very famous in medical circles, "Don't think, try". Jenner therefore was early
noticed by men famous for advancing the practice and institutions of medicine, and Hunter remained in correspondence with him over natural history and proposed him for the Royal Society. Returning to his native countryside, by 1773 he became a successful general practitioner and surgeon, practicing in purpose-built premises at Berkeley.

Jenner and others formed a medical society in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, meeting to read papers on medical subjects and dine together. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia and valvular disease of the heart and commented on cowpox. He also belonged to a similar society which met in Alveston, near Bristol.[1]

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1788, following a careful study combining observation, experiment and dissection into a description of the previously misunderstood life of the cuckoo in the nest.

Common CuckooHis description of the newly-hatched cuckoo pushing its host's eggs and fledglings from the nest (contrary to the existing belief that the adult cuckoo did it) was only confirmed in the 20th century [2] when photography became feasible. Having observed the behaviour, he demonstrated an anatomical adaptation for it—the baby cuckoo has a depression in its back which is not present after 12 days of life, in which it cups eggs and other chicks to push them out of the nest. It had been assumed that the adult bird did this, but the adult does not remain in the area for sufficiently long. His findings were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1787. Some discrepancies in the paper are ascribed to his nephew who is said to have made up some observations.

He married Catherine Kingscote (died 1815 from tuberculosis) in March 1788 having met her when balloons were hot science, and he and other Fellows were experimenting with them. His trial balloon descended into Kingscote Park, owned by Anthony Kingscote, Catherine being one of his three daughters.

In 1792, he obtained his MD from the University of St Andrews.


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