Lady Montagu and the Introduction of Smallpox Inoculation to England

Lady Montagu and the Introduction of Smallpox Inoculation to England

The English aristocrat and writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) is today remembered particularly for her letters from Turkey, an early example of a secular work by a Western woman about the Muslim Orient. When Lady Mary was in the Ottoman Empire, she discovered the local practice of variolation, the inoculation against smallpox. Unlike Jenner's later vaccination, which used cowpox, variolation used a small measure of smallpox itself. Lady Mary, who had suffered from the disease, encouraged her own children to be inoculated while in Turkey. On her return to London, she enthusiastically promoted the procedure, but encountered a great deal of resistance. However, her example certainly popularized the practice of inoculation with smallpox in British high society. The numbers inoculated remained small, and medical effort throughout the 18th century was concentrated on reducing the risks and side-effects of the inoculation process.

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