The globalisation of variolation

Grant, Alicia (2013) The globalisation of variolation. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Variolation is the undervalued and frequently overlooked precursor of vaccination appeared in the 18th century Europe as the first effective prophylaxis against smallpox. This thesis aims firstly to investigate and redress the neglected path from untreatable smallpox to vaccination, in selected countries with a focus on the influence of England on the spread of variolation to other countries. Secondly, to present variolation not only as the origin of immunology but also as the catalyst for the conception and introduction of public health. New findings noted briefly, ranged from unanticipated documents to re-evaluations, as in the first chapter, of the accepted role of Sir Hans Sloane in initiating variolation in England. Originally Turkey, chapter two, was not selected as a country but researching the religious acrimony in England after Lady Mary Montagu's 'ethnic' variolation of her daughter, this thesis contests, with much evidence to the contrary, the widely held Eurocentric belief that the Ottoman Muslims used variolation in the 18th century. In the third chapter, concerning the latter half of the century in England and France, the scope of the contribution of the 'quack' Robert Sutton is reappraised. In Russia, many 'unsung heroes' were discovered long before the accepted initial variolation in 1768 of Czarin Catherine II by Dr. Thomas Dimsdale. A reassessment of aspects of the character of the latter followed the discovery of an archival letter from his mentor's sister in England; also the unacknowledged plagiariam in his book of Robert Sutton's new improved method of variolation. The probability of Russian students bringing the method of variolation from China to Turkey is coutnered. In Sweden, investigation led to the relocation of an account of variolation long regarded as lost - sent by King Charles XII in 712 while in exile in Turkey - lying between the patient prescriptions of his surgeon Dr. Neumann for 300 years in Uppsala University archives. In addition, this study contests current conclusions drawn from Sweden's 18th century statistics. The final chapter of the Colonies of America challenges the claim that Washington's laudable variolation of his troops in 1777 was 'the first mass variolation in history'.

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