Episode 302: From Inoculation to Vaccination, Part 2

Before its eradication in 1980, smallpox was the most feared disease in many parts of the world. Known as the “king of terrors” and the “disease of diseases” the search for a way to lessen and avoid smallpox was on!

How did vaccination come about? What are vaccination’s connections to smallpox inoculation? And how did news and practice of vaccination spread throughout North America? These questions will be our focus in this second, and final, episode in our “From Inoculation to Vaccination” series.

In this episode, we join experts Dr. René Najera, Farren Yero, and Andrew Wehrman for a journey through the history of smallpox, the creation of the world’s first vaccine, and first mass public health initiative.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

The history of smallpox allows us to see how the world’s first and second immunization procedures, inoculation and vaccination, made their way to North America. It also allows us to see how early Americans at first challenged and then adopted measures of smallpox control and prevention in the name of public health. It was the quest for a healthier and safer alternative to smallpox inoculation that led to the world’s second immunization procedure: vaccination.

In this episode we speak with René Najera, a Doctor of Public Health, an Epidemiologist and Director of The History of Vaccines: An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Farren Yero, a post-doctoral associate in the department of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies at Duke University and the 2022 post-doctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute; and Andrew Wehrman, Associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University and author of the forthcoming book, “The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the Revolutionary Era”.

What You’ll Discover

  • Dr. Edward Jenner’s observations and the creation of the smallpox vaccine
  • Controversy over the private inoculation hospital in Marblehead, Massachusetts
  • The effects of smallpox on the Revolutionary War
  • George Washington’s wavering feelings on inoculation
  • Mass inoculation of the Continental Army
  • Edward Jenner’s vaccination experiments on James Phipps
  • The use of enslaved and orphaned children to transport the smallpox vaccine
  • Spanish King Carlos IV decision to vaccinate the Spanish empire
  • The Balmis Expedition
  • How the news and practice of vaccination spread throughout North America
  • Benjamin Waterhouse’s failed vaccination campaign
  • Massachusetts public health efforts to make vaccination widely available
  • How we get from the first smallpox vaccine to the COVID-19 MRNA vaccine

Links to People, Places, and Publications

Series Music

Music in this episode has been licensed through Blue Dot Sessions 

Sponsor Links

Omohundro Institute
The World of the Wampanoag Series

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Complementary Episodes

Episode 005: Jeanne Abrams, Revolutionary Medicine
Episode 116: Erica Charters, Disease & the Seven Years’ War
Episode 174: Thomas Apel, Yellow Fever in the Early American Republic
Episode 263: Sari Altschuler, The Medical Imagination
Episode 273: Victoria Johnson, David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Early Republic
Episode 276: Stephen Fried, Benjamin Rush
Episode 301: From Inoculation to Vaccination, Part 1

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