A Journal of the University of Malta Medical School

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Volume 23, Issue 2    (go to table of contents)

Historical Article

Who invented vaccination?

Robert Jesty, Gareth Williams

Malta Medical Journal, 2011: 2; 30

Edward Jenner, whose ‘Inquiry’ (1798)1 was the first published report of vaccination against smallpox, is widely seen as the inventor of vaccination. However, other individuals could lay claim to this title, notably his contemporaries, Benjamin Jesty and John Fewster. Jesty, a Dorset farmer, performed vaccinations in 1774, 22 years before Jenner’s first vaccination in 1796. Fewster, an apothecary-surgeon who knew Jenner personally, is also reported to have performed the procedure several years before Jenner. However, neither Jesty nor Fewster published or publicised their work and both were recognised retrospectively, notably by critics of Jenner. This article compares the contributions of these three putative ‘inventors’ of vaccination.

Keywords:

Vaccination discovery, cowpox, variolation, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, John Fewster.

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