Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inoculation, 1722

Before the Small Pox vaccine, an option for protecting oneself from infection was the rather gruesome process of inoculation. Simply put, the fluid from a infected person's pustule would be applied to a small cut in the skin.  The result was usually a mild case of Small Pox that would leave the inoculated person safe from further infection.

But sometimes it did not work so well. Jonathan Edwards died from a failed inoculation attempt and there were legitimate fears that a group of people undergoing inoculation could foster an epidemic. The debate over the moral and medical implications of inoculation turned into a pamphlet war in the 1720s. Here we have two such pamphlets: Legard Sparham's Reasons against the Practice of Inoculating the Small-Pox (London: Benj. and Sam. Tooke, 1722), and Benjamin Coleman's A Narrative of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small Pox in New England (London: Emanuel Matthews, 1722).

Sparham's Reasons, in it's third edition, answers his critics from the earlier editions, while Coleman's Narrative contains a point-by-point refutation of a series of objections to inoculation on moral grounds.

You can see them both by asking for Rare RA644.S6S63 1722 and Rare RM786.C68

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