MFDJ 04/12/24: Opposing Variolation

Today’s Bitterly Opposed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Smallpox variolation (inoculating against smallpox by deliberate infection with a mild form of the disease) was less popular in major cities such as London, where smallpox was largely a childhood disease and the poor were burdened by an excess of offspring, than in small towns and rural villages, where more sporadic outbreaks struck down adolescents and young adults.  [So the poor were glad to see them go?  – DeSpair] The procedure also became established in the British colonies of North America, whose isolated nature made them vulnerable to severe epidemics. In 1721, for example, smallpox broke out in Boston, sickening 5,980 of the city’s 11,000 residents and killing 844. The Reverend Cotton Mather, who had learned of variolation from his African slave Onesimus, persuaded local physician Zabdiel Boylston to practice the technique.  Of the 242 people who were inoculated, only six died—a much lower mortality rate than inflicted by the natural disease. But the Boston medical establishment, the clergy, and much of the general public were bitterly opposed to variolation. Boylston’s life was threatened and he was forced to go into hiding. [Gee, sounds familiar. – DeSpair]

In 1722, Reverend Mather attempted to popularize variolation in the American colonies by publishing a small book titled An Account of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small-Pox, which gave a step-by-step description of the procedure. During a subsequent epidemic in Boston in 1753-54, Benjamin Franklin, who had lost a son to smallpox, conducted a scientific study to demonstrate the effectiveness of variolation and became an enthusiastic supporter of the technique. In Russia, variolation was popularized by Catherine the Great, who was inoculated along with her son in 1768. She then issued orders to variolate her subjects, and numerous “pox houses” were established for this purpose.

Pro-Vax Catherine the Great!

Culled from: Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox

Post-Mortem Photo Du Jour!

Culled from: Wisconsin Death Trip


Andersonville Prisoner Diary Entry Du Jour!

This is the continuation of the 1864 diary of Andersonville prisoner Private George A. Hitchcock (see the archived version for all entries up until now).

Here’s today’s entry:

December 8th. Very chilly and cloudy. I am not prepared to understand my situation yet, so unexpectedly has it come upon me. In the morning the remaining four thousand in camp were called out into the dead-line and examined. Laird and I were near the last end of one of the lines. As the rebel surgeon came along, glancing at one and another, speaking to perhaps one out of a dozen, he passed me by,–an incident which did not attract my attention much, as I had no idea I was worth noticing any how.  But he turns and looks back at me, and then steps back, asks my condition, examines me more closely, thumps me (and my heart thumps back), asks the name of my regiment, State, time of expiration of term of service, and then, turning away, says abruptly, “You may go.” No words will ever strike me as those did; asking him to repeat them–not fully understanding–I bounded out of the stockade as if I had been shot out. Hardly was I out and looking about me, when I saw Laird following me. Too overjoyed to think of anything else, we clasped each other’s hands and cried like babies. Found and signed our parole papers, after which we were sent out on a large level field, with a number of others, without much guard, all day and night. Rations of meal and sweet potatoes.

Culled from: Andersonville: Giving Up the Ghost

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