Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Vaccination Against Smallpox

14 May 1796
“Dr Jenner performing his first vaccination on James Phipps, a boy of age 8.” (painting by Ernest Board)

James Phipps, the son of a poor agrarian worker, was the first person to be inoculated against smallpox by Dr Jenner, the inventor of vaccination.
Jenner used a small amount of fluid harvested from the cowpox of a milkmaid, Sarah Nelmes, who had caught the disease from a sick cow. James fell ill, but recovered within a few days.  Jenner concluded that the boy was now completely protected against the disease.

Vaccination against smallpox was introduced throughout Europe in the nineteenth century, but many were opposed to it. Medical doctors claimed that patients who had been vaccinated were sure to die of smallpox or to catch tuberculosis and/or syphilis. Religious believers argued that man had no right to anticipate the will of God. Others claimed that vaccination infringed the personal freedom and integrity of the body. Nowadays, these same arguments still pop up in social media.