Words of Wisdom:

"Keep your chin up. Some bugger will punch it." - NewRaVer


  • Date Submitted: 07/04/2013 02:02 AM
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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

and Smallpox Inoculation in 18th-Century England

by Erika Remillard-Hagen


This module is designed for high school biology students and will introduce the ideas of society, credibility, and gender roles in science. We will begin our discussion in 18th Century England, before Jenner’s Vaccination or the field of Immunology has been introduced. Students will follow the story of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, author and ambassador’s wife, as she encourages an un-conventional approach to the fight against small pox. Students will have the opportunity to investigate issues relating to: a.) credibility in science; b.) cultural context of scientific thought and reasoning, and c.) parallels in our case study and ongoing/current developments in science/society.


Everyone here today has been vaccinated against major disease causing illnesses. The CDC has prepared a schedule of vaccinations (Fig.1) required before entering the school system or leaving the country. Chances are that no one here has suffered from Diphtheria, Polio, Mumps, Hepatitis, Rubella- possibly even chickenpox, which is currently being encouraged if it hasn’t naturally occurred by the age of one year. These are issues of public health, to protect you and to protect others from infectious disease. What would be the result if we didn’t have them?

We take for granted the real magic of immunity because we live in a society where few ailments are fatal. The occasional flu virus is miserable to endure. But a flu vaccine is produced each year to protect those at risk or for those who simply wish to reduce the symptoms. Medicine is armed with the tools to prevent or at least lessen the threat of most life threatening communicable diseases.

Imagine a time before induced immunity. Imagine a time when diseases swept through cities and killed or disfigured most of its victims. A...


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