The Birth of Vaccination: An Environmental History


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project presents a fundamentally new history of the birth of smallpox vaccination. It explores the material culture of vaccination by focusing on how cowpox was identified, cultivated, and transported to various environments around the world: from the dairies of rural England where Edward Jenner first found cowpox, to the urban hospitals of London and Paris where the bodies of children and the poor were used in clinical trials and for supplies of cowpox lymph, to colonial settlements where harsh climates compromised the quality of the vaccine. The project traces the exchange of information, illustrations, artifacts, and the vaccine itself among entrepreneurial doctors, clergy, military and colonial bureaucrats, and especially women – as patrons, mothers, and vaccinators – a significant group hitherto ignored by scholars.