Smallpox: Disease from the past


Edward Jenner

Smallpox was a natural disease, which appeared around 10,000 BC in parts of North-Eastern Africa, and spread to India by Egyptian merchants.

The skin lesions common to smallpox have been discovered on the faces of mummies; Pharaoh Ramses V, who died in 1156 BC.

This horrific disease entered Europe during the Middle Ages (5th – 7th century AD).

In the 18th century, smallpox was known to kill some 400,000 people per year, some of those who survived, were blinded or badly scarred.

The word variola was a commonly used term when referring to smallpox, as introduced by Bishop Marius of Avenches, Switzerland in AD 570.  Derived from the latin word varius, which meant “stained” or varus which meant “mark on the skin.”

The term small pockes, used in 15th century England was to distinguish the disease from syphilis, known as the great pockes.

If we go back to 430 BC, it was common knowledge that survivors of smallpox, became immune to the disease, and they would nurse the afflicted.

In medieval times, many remedies were attempted:  Dr Sydenham (1624-1689), treated his patients by forbidding a fire to be lit, windows wide open day and night, no bed clothes above the waist, and the patient would consume twelve small bottles of beer, every twenty-four hours.

However the most successful way for early doctors, in combating smallpox before the discovery of vaccination (Vaccine: A substance made from the germs that cause the disease, which is given to people to prevent them getting the disease) was inoculation (Injecting a micro-organism, bacteria, to protect one against the disease.  The word is derived from the Latin inoculare, which meant to graft).

Inoculation; saw subcutaneous instillation of the smallpox disease into a non-immune person, by using a wet lancet with fresh matter from an infected smallpox sufferer.

On the 17th April 1722, two daughters of the Princess of Wales were treated this way, and the procedure received acceptance by the Royal Family.

This form of treatment carried some risks, yet it was better than doing nothing, as thousands died.  It is believed only 2-3% of treated patients died, or went on to suffer from other diseases, like tuberculosis and syphilis.

Smallpox was a major killer, prior to Edward Jenner’s vaccination, which changed medical treatment.  Whilst his vaccination did not eradicate smallpox totally, it made its mark by reducing the fatality rates in cities like London which suffered from high numbers of people living in filth and squalor.

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Edward Jenner: Smallpox Vaccine


Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner, the son of Rev Stephen Jenner was born on the 17th May 1749 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.  Aged just five he became orphaned, and went to live with his older brother.  His early schooling, showed young Edward had a deep interest in science and nature, and would be with him for the rest of his life.

When Edward was 14, he became an apprentice to one Daniel Ludlow, the County Surgeon in Sodbury, for a period of seven years.  In 1764 he began an apprenticeship with George Harwicke, where he learnt about surgical and medical practices.

In 1770 aged 21, Jenner became a student under John Hunter, a famous surgeon in his time at St.George’s Hospital in London.  He was well known, and a well respected Biologist and Anatomist, also known as an experimental scientist.

Whilst under tutorage of John Hunter, Jenner studied geology, and carried out experiments on human blood.  It was during this time, he devised an improved method for preparation of medicine known as “Tartar Emetic” (Potassium Antimony Tartrate).

Edward Jenner returned to Berkeley to practice medicine, following the death of John Hunter the Scottish surgeon and friend in October 1793.

Jenner was elected as a “Fellow of the Royal Society” in 1788, following his publication, based upon his study of the much misunderstood life of a “Cuckoo.”  Where upon he undertook experiments, dissected it, and gave his personal thoughts.

In 1792, Edward Jenner earned his MD status, from the University of St.Andrews.

In 1796 Jenner, made his first steps in the eradication of the smallpox disease, which had been the scourge of mankind for centuries.

He deduced that cowpox, a disease often caught by dairymaids, protected one from the more serious disease of smallpox.

Sarah Nelms, a young dairymaid had cowpox lesions on her hands and arms, and using matter from her lesions, inoculated James Phipps.  Nine days later he was cold and lacked appetite, and on the tenth day was better.  A few months later he inoculated the boy once again, but this time with smallpox lesions.

Smallpox did not develop, proving that cowpox had indeed protected him against the infection.

He sent a paper to the Royal Society in 1797, describing his findings, but they rejected it.  In 1798, Jenner knew his theory and practical application had merit, and so published a book on his findings.  “An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae.”

Part one, consisted of details regarding the origin of cowpox, as a disease of horses, and transmitted to cows… yet the theory was rejected.  Part Two, contained critical observations, related to his tests.  Part Three, was a discussion into the pros and cons of his findings.

In 1799, Dr George Pearson and Dr William Woodville supported his vaccination, which was undertaken and distributed to their patients.  His vaccination spread rapidly through England, and by 1800 had reached much of Europe.

Dr John Haygarth received vaccine from Edward Jenner in 1800, which he sent to Benjamin Waterhouse a physics professor at Harvard University.  He in turn introduced it into New England, and Thomas Jefferson tried it in Virginia, which led to the creation of the “National Vaccine Institute” in the United States of America.

In 1802 Edward Jenner received the sum of £10,000 from the British Parliament for his work on vaccination, and in 1806 received a further £20,000 for his work on microbiology.

On the 30th December 1802, he became a Master Mason at the “Lodge of Faith and Friendship.”  From 1812-1813 he was appointed and served as “Worshipful Master of Royal Berkeley Lodge of Faith and Friendship.”

In 1803 he became involved with the Jennerian Institution, a society whose aim it was to promote vaccination to eradicate smallpox.  In 1808, the society was re-named and became the “National Vaccine Establishment.”

In 1821, he was appointed Physician to King George IV, and made Mayor of Berkeley and Justice of the Peace.

In 1788 Edward Jenner married Catherine Kingscote, and they had four children.  They lived in Chantry House, and in the garden he vaccinated the poor for free.

His family was shattered in 1810, when son Edward died of Tuberculosis, followed by Mary and his wife in 1815.  In 1820 he suffered a stroke, from which he recovered.  On the 23rd January 1823 he visited his final patient, and on the 25th January was found with his right side paralysed.  On the very next day; 26th January 1823, aged 73 Edward Jenner died from an apparent stroke.

He was laid to rest with his parents, wife and children, near the altar of Berkeley Church.

The early works by Edward Jenner on the study of smallpox, and its connection with cowpox had laid the foundation, which would allow future doctors and scientists to come up with a cure for this disease which was known to have taken the lives of thousands…

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Mass Murder by Normans


Did you know? Thousands of men, women and children, are known to have starved to death, at the hands of the Duke of Normandy, King William (William the Conqueror) of England in 1069.

Poverty and Famine is a hard thing to live with, when there is no food to put on the table, and one watches the young ones die from hunger.  That must have been what it was like for the people of Northern England, seeing their crops burned, livestock killed and destruction of all buildings, between the Scottish borders in the north and the rich shires in the south, creating a border of death…

This is how King William of England put an end to their resistance of him as their new King.

French Martyr: Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born on the 6th January 1412, during the “100 Years War” between England and France, in Doremy in north-eastern France, to parents Jacques and Isabelle.

Joan had no formal education; she could not read or write, yet her upbringing instilled a love of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

Aged just thirteen, she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies … the English.

The events taking place in France; an internal was had broken out between two factions of the French Royal Family.  The Armagnac’s led by Count Bernard VII of Armagnac and Duke Charles of Orleans against Duke John-the-Fearless of Burgundy.  With them at war, the door was open for England to invade.

King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25th October 1415.

Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.

In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon.  She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims.  There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.

In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s.  She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River.  As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.

Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.

In the spring of 1430, Joan led her forces against the Burgundian’s at Compiegne, where she was thrown from her horse, and captured.  She was brought before the English commander at the Castle of Bouvreuil at Rouen.  She was put on trial for witchcraft, heresy and dressing as a man.


Joan of Arc – Burnt at Stake

On the 30th May aged 19, she was taken to Rouen’s market place, and burned at the stake.  At her execution according to witness statements, it is said she listened calmly to the words being read to her.  She wept as she forgave her accusers, asking that they pray for her.

With the English driven from Rouen in November of 1449 so the process of initiating an appeal case against Joan started as ordered by Charles VII to clear her name.  It was so ruled by Jean Brehal she had been illegally convicted by a corrupt court and finally described as a Martyr … She was a saint in her own right.

In 1920, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc)  having attained mythical stature was canonised by Pope Benedict XV.

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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451, to parents Domenico Colombo and Susanna Fontanarossa.  His education involved the training of classical literature and speaking of several languages.

Aged fourteen, he took to the sea, and in 1479 met his brother; Bartolomeo in Lisbon who was a cartographer.  He remained in Lisbon, and married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, and in 1480 his son Diego was born.  His wife died in 1485.

Colombus and Diego moved to Spain, in an effort to raise funds for an exploration of Western Trade routes.  He was granted the funding by the Spanish Monarchs: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and they set sail on the 3rd August 1492.  They had three ships; Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria with a crew of 104 men.

They crossed from Spain to the Canary Islands, to resupply the ships and undertake minor repairs, then headed out across the Atlantic Ocean, a voyage of some five weeks.  Many died from diseases, hunger and thirst.

Rodrigo de Triana sighted land, which Columbus believed to be an Asian Island, which he named San Salvador, which we know as the Bahamas.  Sailing onwards, looking for riches he ended up in Cuba and Hispaniola.  On the 21st November 1492, the Pinta went to explore on its own.  On the 25th December 1492, the Santa Maria was wrecked off the Hispaniola coast, and Columbus had no choice but to leave forty men at the Navidad Fort, promising to return.  Columbus arrived back in Spain on the 15th March 1493.

After the success of discovering land on his first voyage, Columbus set sail, heading west on the 23rd September 1493, with 17 ships and 1200 men, to establish colonies in the name of Spain.

On the 3rd November, they sighted Dominica, Guadeloupe and Jamaica, but no riches were found.

From their they headed back to Hispaniola and the forty men left on their previous voyage at the Navidad Fort, only to find it destroyed, for the crew had mistreated the local population.

For the attack on the people of Spain he demanded these Taino people who had destroyed the fort and taken Spanish lives, had a price to pay.  Everyone over 14 years of age, delivered a hawk’s bell full of gold powder or twenty five pounds of spun cotton, every three months. Failure to do so:  Their hands would be cut off, and they would be left to bleed to death.

He established the Colony of Santo Domingo, and in 1495 conquered the entire Island of Hispaniola in the name of Spain. In March of 1496, he set sail for Spain, arriving in Cadiz on the 31st July.

On the 30th May 1498, Columbus took a southerly route, in the hope of finding China; this he did not find, but found Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada, Margarita and the lands of South America.

On the 31st August landed at Hispaniola and discovered the colony of Santo Domingo was disorganised.

In 1500, Columbus was arrested and returned to Spain, on the charges of mis-treatment of Spaniards and the locals, according to government officials who visited Hispaniola.  He successfully defended himself against these charges, but lost the right as Governor of Hispaniola.

On the 9th May Columbus left Spain arriving at Hispaniola in June.  On the 4th July set sail and discovered Central America.  In January 1503, reached Panama.  On the 7th November 1504 Columbus set sail for Spain and retirement.

Queen Isabella died on the 26th November 1504, and Columbus made a petition in 1505 to the King to regain his Governorship of Hispaniola, then in 1506 he became ill and died on the 20th May 1506.

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Jean-Baptiste Charcot

Charcot - Francais

Jean-Baptiste Charcot was born on the 15th July 1867 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.  He followed in his father’s footsteps; Jean-Martin Charcot into the medical profession, but his true love was with the sea.

Charcot purchased his yacht the “COURLIS” in his early twenties, and soon upgraded it to the “POURQUOI-PAS.”

In 1893 his father died, leaving him an inheritance of 400,000 gold francs.  In 1896 he married the grand-daughter of Victor Hugo, but his wife did not share his interest for scientific exploration.

He commissioned Gauther Ship Builders to build the “FRANCAIS” a three masted schooner built of oak, measuring 150 feet in length with a 25 foot beam, and a reinforced bow.

The French Antarctic Expedition, raised 450,000 francs, and President Emile Loubet’s undertaking of an expedition for France.

He sailed south aboard the Francais into the Antarctic waters, exploring the islands, charting coastlines and gathering botanical, zoological, hydrographical and meteorological data along the way.

On the 27th August 1903, the Francais left LeHarve with Paul Pleneau, friend and supporter and Adrien de Gerlache a Belgium explorer on board.  They stopped at Madeira, then on to Pernambuco in Brazil, where Gerlache left the expedition, and continued on to Buenos Aires, arriving in mid-November.

Two scientists; Turquet and Gourdon from the recently rescued Swedish exploration led by Otto Nordenskjold, joined Charcot’s expedition.

On the 23rd December they sailed from Buenos Aires to Orange Harbour, Tierra del Fuego and moved southwards.

In early February of 1904, they witnessed icebergs in the South Shetlands, moving slowly along the shore of Palmer Archipelago.

Their ships boiler pipes ruptured on the 5th February, which created a drop in pressure.  They slowly hobbled, through iceberged landscapes into Biscoe Bay off Cape Errera, then onto Flanders Bay, where she remained until 18th February whilst repairs were carried out.

The Francais, reached the inlet of Wiencke Island on the 19th February, where they turned south, but engine troubles and ice blocked pipes, slowed them down.  They hobbled on, pulling into a bay off the north coast of Wandel Island, now known as Booth Island, to see out the winter.

Structures were erected on the snow covered island, to house scientific instruments and the crew.  In early April scientific studies were well on the way.  Lieutenant Matha and Rallier du Baty were responsible for astronomical and topographical observations, Turquet collected zoological samples, Gourdon, the geologist classified minerals and rocks, and Pleneau worked his magic on the engines and created a photographic record of the expedition.

As winter set in, temperatures plummeted to -36° F. As they wrapped themselves in clothes huddling themselves round the fire … eager to retain some warmth in their bodies.

On the 24th November, they used the whaleboat to transport camping equipment, supplies and scientific equipment to Petermann Island.  The next leg took them to Graham Land Coast, where they were forced to drag the whaleboat through the ice, for five hard labouring days.  Finally reaching their destination, they climbed 2900 foot high crest of Cape Tuxen, spending seven days surveying Graham Land Coast between Booth Island and Biscoe Islands located to the south.

Come mid-December, much of the ice had been cleared from the bay by southerly winds.  They cleared a channel through the ice, releasing the FRANCAIS from her prison to escape into open waters.

On the 26th December they weighed anchor, as the FRANCAIS sjowly chugged through packed ice, and navigated the channel between Adelaide Island and the Loubet Coast.

On the 13th January 1905, sixty miles to the south of Alexander Island, they struck a rock below the water line, and water flooded in.  Pumps had to be operated by hand, as the engines had barely enough power to drive the ship.

To keep the ship afloat, Libois carried out temporary repairs to the hull, whilst the crew worked forty-five minutes out of every sixty minutes, twenty-four hours a day pumping handles with freezing hands, in an attempt to reach Port Lockroy on Wiencke Island.

On the 29th January they pulled in to Wiencke Island, where they made repairs.  On the 15th February the FRANCAIS passed Smith Island on route to Puerto Madryn at Tierra del Fuego.

As the FRANCAIS limped into Buenos Aires, she was welcomed by the ships in port.  In dry-dock a twenty-four foot rip to her keel was discovered.

The crew of the FRANCAIS along with seventy-five crates of scientific results, left Buenos Aires, aboard the ALGERIE, bound for France on the 5th May 1905.

France had a new hero; “Commandant Charcot.”  His expedition was hailed as a success, for they had charted some 620 miles of coasts and islands…

The success of his expedition, left a thirst, he was eager to return to the Antarctic and complete his life’s work.

He put forward his plan to the Academy of Sciences, and it was also approved by the Museum and Oceanographical Institute, which helped him in his effort to raise the capital through the government and scientific institutes.  In all 710,000 francs in financial aid was received, and the Prince of Monaco, offered an oceanographical outfit of vessel used for said expedition.

In September of 1907, construction began of the POURQUOI-PAS, similar design to that of the FRANCAIS, but much stronger by design, which also included an inner-hull.  The engine was built by Labrosse and Fouche of Nantes, capable of producing 450 horse power.

On the 15th August 1908, the expedition left Le Harve, with twenty-two crew members and his new young wife Meg, whom he had married on the 24th January 1907, after his first wife had divorced him on the grounds of desertion.  She would stay with the expedition until they reached Punta Arenas, then return home to France.

On the 12th October the POURQUOI-PAS reached Rio de Janeiro, and then onto Buenos Aires and Punta Arenas.

The POURQUOI-PAS departed Punta Arenas on the 16th December, arriving at Smith Island on the 22nd, turning south-east to Deception Island.  Here they were greeted by a colony of Norwegian whaling ships.  They left on the 25th December 1908, and reached Booth Island on the 29th, where the FRANCAIS had moored up for the winter months.

On the 1st January 1909, Charcot renamed the harbour at Petersen Island to that of Port Circumcision in honour of Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, the French explorer.

History was to haunt them, yet they didn’t see it coming…  Charcot, Gourdon and Godfrey took the launch out, to view the area close to Cape Tuxen.  Memories were still fresh, when they had to drag the whaleboat from Petermann Island to the coast, during the FRANCAIS expedition.

The water’s were ice free, thus no supplies were required, and they had intended returning in a few hours.  They sought out a route to the south, once observations of the area near Bertholet Islands had been completed; they started back to the ship.

Snow had started falling, and the channel was blocked by freezing ice floes.  They spent three days and three nights, before being rescued by the POURQUOI-PAS.

History repeated itself once again, the POURQUOI-PAS ran aground and the stern deck was under water.  The engine was undamaged, and on the next high tide, she was floated off.  She headed to Petermann Island for repairs.

By the end of January 1909 the POURQUOI-PAS had crossed the Antarctic Circle and sailed the length of Adelaide Island.  They charted the coastline, and entered the Bay of Adelaide Island, mapped it and named it Marguerite Bay after Charcot’s wife Meg.  At the end of January the ship headed for Port Circumcision harbour, where they made camp for the winter.

By March of 1909, the Antarctic autumn was drawing to a close, only to be replaced by April snow storms, as temperatures plummeted.  Charcot was struck down with polar anemia, his legs swelled and each breath was painful.  An expedition headed to Graham Island and by mid-October Charcot showed signs of improvement in his health.

By early November the POURQUOI-PAS had left their winter quarters arriving at Deception Island on the 27th November 1909.

Inspection of the hull; history had repeated itself once again, the hull was damaged, and part of the keel had been torn away.

On the 7th January 1910 the POURQUOI-PAS sailed south, and crossed the 69th parallel.  They sailed westwards and on the 11th January 1910, sighted land at 70° south and 76° west within the Antarctic Circle and named it “Charcot Land” in memory of his father.  On the 11th February 1910, they arrived at Punta Arenas, continuing north and by the early part of June had crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

The POURQUOI-PAS sailed up the River Seine, to crowds of cheering on-lookers.

The second expedition by French Explorer; Jean-Baptiste Charcot had surveyed some 1250 miles of coastline and undiscovered territories.  Maps created were still being used some twenty-five years later.  Over 3,000 photographs and scientific data had been collected; equalling twenty-eight volumes.

During World War One, Charcot commanded a British Royal Navy Q-Boat, and was awarded the (DSC) Distinguished Service Cross.

On the 15th September 1936, the POURQUOI-PAS, met her end off the coast of Iceland during a storm.  Jean-Baptiste Charcot aged 69, went down with his ship.

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Mystery of the Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste

The Mary Celeste was a 107 foot long, with a 26½ foot beam and a 16 foot draught Brigantine Sail Ship.  Originally named the “Amazon” and launched in May of 1861.  She ran aground at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1867, and was rebuilt in 1872, and named the “Mary Celeste.”

She had been at sea for over a month, when the Dei Gratia had boarded this drifting vessel some 400 miles from the Azures in the Atlantic Ocean.  No Captain or crew were found aboard, and the cargo still in the hold.

All that was missing was one yawl lifeboat, the chronometer and sextant.  They must have been in a hurry to leave the ship; all their personal belonging’s remained on-board.  Had they feared the ship was sinking; one of its two pumps lay in pieces and the hold was 3½ feet deep with water.

According to an entry in the ship’s logbook made at 05.00am on the 25th November, she stopped at the island of St.Mary in the Azores.

The Dei Gratia crew sailed the Mary Celeste some 400 miles to Gibraltar, claiming salvage rights, of which they received one-sixth, based on the insurance of ship and cargo.

The question of foul play by the crew of the Dei Gratia had been considered, but no proof existed, according to the findings of the enquiry.

So What Happened To The Mary Celeste?

Had they been murdered by the crew of the Dei Gratia, who then claimed salvage rights?

As the ship’s hold filled with water, they took to the lifeboat fearing it was destined to sink?

Had there been a minor earthquake at sea, as the water’s bubbled, nine barrels of alcohol broke loose, leading to a minor explosion onboard.  Smoking embers filled the ship, and they took to the lifeboat, which was tied to ship.  The rope broke and they were parted from ship as it sailed away?

The captain (Benjamin Spooner Briggs) his wife (Sarah Elizabeth Briggs) , his daughter (Sophia Matilda Briggs – aged two) and a crew of seven seamen disappeared without trace … never to be heard from ever again.

The mystery of the Mary Celeste will continue to haunt our imagination…

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