Preventive Medicine

From The New York Times:Vaccine

In 1796, an English country doctor named Edward Jenner successfully immunized a child against smallpox, the world’s deadliest infectious disease. His experiment, “An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae” (or “smallpox of the cow”) added the word “vaccination” to our vocabulary. News of Jenner’s stunning achievement led millions throughout Europe to roll up their sleeves. Napoleon, Britain’s mortal enemy, had his troops vaccinated before taking the field. “Ah, Jenner,” he supposedly said after freeing two English prisoners at the doctor’s request, “I can withhold nothing from that man.”

Yet, as Arthur Allen makes clear in “Vaccine,” a timely, fair-minded and crisply written account of “medicine’s greatest lifesaver,” not everyone welcomed Jenner’s feat. Criticism came quickly, often in apocalyptic terms. The economist Thomas Malthus wrote that vaccination might lead to dangerous population increases. Ministers warned against interfering with the Lord’s grand design. Others, meanwhile, objected to a process that injected foreign, perhaps poisonous, matter into the body. What possible good could come from polluting the bloodstream of a child?

More here.