10 disease-related memorials in London…4. Edward Jenner statue…

July 8, 2020

Located in the Italian Garden in Kensington Gardens, this statue commemorates Edward Jenner, the Gloucestershire-born doctor credited with the development of the modern vaccine for smallpox.

Smallpox is estimated to have killed some 400,000 people each year in the 18th century. Jenner, who trained in London in the early 1770s, had heard that having cowpox protected milkmaids from getting smallpox inoculated a healthy child, eight-year-old James Phipps (the son of his gardener), with cowpox and, injecting him with smallpox two months later, was able to show the boy was immune to smallpox (although the ethics of Jenner’s experiment still remain a matter of considerable debate).

The bronze statue, which depicts Jenner seated, was the work of Royal Academician William Calder Marshall. Funded through international subscription, it was originally was unveiled by Prince Albert in 1858 in Trafalgar Square. It was moved to the Italian Garden in 1862, apparently after pressure from anti-vaxxers.

A bronze plaque laid in the ground in front of the statue describes Jenner, who is sometimes hailed as the “Father of Immunology”, as a “country doctor who benefited mankind”.

Smallpox, which is believed to have killed some 300 million people in the 20th century alone, was declared to have been eradicated worldwide by the 33rd World Health Assembly in May, 1980, with the last reported case in Somalia in 1977.

Recent years have seen a push to have the statue returned to Trafalgar Square.

PICTURE: Iridescenti (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

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