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On This Day In History May 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

May 14 is the 134th day of the year (135th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 231 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1796, Edward Jenner, an English country doctor from Gloucestershire, administers the world’s first vaccination as a preventive treatment for smallpox, a disease that had killed millions of people over the centuries.

Edward Anthony Jenner (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English scientist who studied his natural surroundings in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Jenner is widely credited as the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, and is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Immunology”; his works have been said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu witnessed the Ottoman Empire practice of variolation during her 1716-1718 sojourn in Istanbul, where her husband was the British ambassador. She brought the idea back to Britain. Voltaire, a few years later, recorded that 60% of people caught smallpox, with 20% of the population dying of it. In the years following 1770 there were at least six people in England and Germany (Sevel, Jensen, Jesty 1774, Rendell, Plett 1791) who had successfully tested the possibility of using the cowpox vaccine as an immunization for smallpox in humans. For example, Dorset farmer Benjamin Jesty had successfully vaccinated and presumably induced immunity in his wife and two children with cowpox during a smallpox epidemic in 1774, but it was not until Jenner’s work some twenty years later that the procedure became widely understood. Indeed, Jenner may have been aware of Jesty’s procedures and success.

Jenner’s Initial Theory:

The initial source of infection was a disease of horses, called “the grease”, and that this was transferred to cows by farm workers, transformed, and then manifested as cowpox.

Noting the common observation that milkmaids did not generally get smallpox, Jenner theorized that the pus in the blisters which milkmaids received from cowpox (a disease similar to smallpox, but much less virulent) protected the milkmaids from smallpox. He may have had the advantage of hearing stories of Benjamin Jesty and others who deliberately arranged cowpox infection of their families, and then noticed a reduced smallpox risk in those families.

On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, a young boy of 8 years (the son of Jenner’s gardener), with material from the cowpox blisters of the hand of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, whose hide hangs on the wall of the library at St George’s medical school (now in Tooting). Blossom’s hide commemorates one of the school’s most renowned alumni. Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner’s first paper on vaccination.

Jenner inoculated Phipps with cowpox pus in both arms on the same day. The inoculation was accomplished by scraping the pus from Nelmes’ blisters onto a piece of wood then transferring this to Phipps’ arms. This produced a fever and some uneasiness but no great illness. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, which would have been the routine attempt to produce immunity at that time. No disease had followed. Jenner reported that later the boy was again challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.


Smallpox is more dangerous than variolation and cowpox less dangerous than variolation.


Infection with cowpox gives immunity to smallpox.


If variolation after infection with cowpox fails to produce a smallpox infection, immunity to smallpox has been achieved.


Immunity to smallpox can be induced much more safely than by variolation.

Ronald Hopkins states: “Jenner’s unique contribution was not that he inoculated a few persons with cowpox, but that he then proved they were immune to smallpox. Moreover, he demonstrated that the protective cowpox could be effectively inoculated from person to person, not just directly from cattle. In addition he tested his theory on a series of 23 subjects. This aspect of his research method increased the validity of his evidence.

He continued his research and reported it to the Royal Society, who did not publish the initial report. After improvement and further work, he published a report of twenty-three cases. Some of his conclusions were correct, and some erroneous – modern microbiological and microscopic methods would make this easier to repeat. The medical establishment, as cautious then as now, considered his findings for some time before accepting them. Eventually vaccination was accepted, and in 1840 the British government banned variolation – the use of smallpox itself – and provided vaccination – using cowpox – free of charge. (See Vaccination acts). The success of his discovery soon began to spread around Europe and as an example was used en masse in the Spanish Balmis Expedition a three year mission to the Americas led by Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis with the aim of giving thousands the smallpox vaccine. The expedtition was successful and Jenner wrote, “I don’t imagine the annals of history furnish an example of philanthropy so noble, so extensive as this.”

Jenner’s continuing work on vaccination prevented his continuing his ordinary medical practice. He was supported by his colleagues and the King in petitioning Parliament and was granted £10,000 for his work on vaccination. In 1806 he was granted another £20,000 for his continuing work.


In 1979, the World Health Organization declared smallpox an eradicated disease. This was the result of coordinated public health efforts by many people, but vaccination was an essential component. And although it was declared eradicated, some samples still remain in laboratories in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, and State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia.

The importance of his work does not stop there. His vaccine also laid the groundwork for modern-day discoveries in immunology, and the field he began may someday lead to cures for arthritis, AIDS, and many other diseases of the time.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Egg 25

The Mythical Intelligence Testing

I used to ask teachers of the learning disabled how they would have liked to have Albert Einstein in their class.  Two knew it was a trick question.  The rest…

When Hermann Einstein asked the principal of Albert’s elementary school what studies he thought it would be best for Albert to pursue, the principal replied it didn’t matter since Albert would fail at everything.  While Einstein was plotting means of escaping the torment of his elementary schooling, he was thrown out of the school.

Einstein had the most terrible of all learning disabilities – he was autistic.  I reject the notion of including those afflicted with diseases of the “autism spectra” as autistics.  Most notably Asperger’s syndrome, that is rumored to afflict Bill Gates, may indeed be very difficult to deal with but how does a disease that manifests itself in teen years compare to a disease in which most of the victims never learn to speak?

Einstein’s reputed high IQ score must have been obtained through one of the many non-verbal IQ tests.

Temple Grandin, an autistic professor, writes with superb clarity about the condition but includes in her “visual learners” a man such as DaVinci.  DaVinci’s incredible depth and breadth of knowledge was not remotely comparable to Einstein’s laser focus that allowed little distraction.

An IQ test may be considered a test of neatness and shallowness more than intelligence says your wretched informant who always scored very high in that sad state of affairs.

Maybe if I hadn’t dawdled occasionally over which of the two right answers was the one the dimwitted authors of such tests wanted, I could have scored even higher.  At least I could be certain to outscore those deeper sorts who really struggled with such a conundrum.

My mother, to her dying day, was still angry about starting school in a class with Hispanics – she thought the town was divided between Finns and the enemy Norwegians and had no idea where those others came from. Speaking Finnish nearly exclusively, the only thing my mother had in common with the Hispanics was that neither knew much English but at least the Hispanics could speak to each other.  They were put in what today would be the “short bus” class.

In my own view, the dimmest of the dim are those who proclaim IQ tests are proof of racial superiority by idiots who have no idea what race is.  

Race is not, is not, is not ethnicity.  It is biology but those proclaiming IQ tests prove the imaginary white race is superior to all but the totally non-existent yellow race offer powerful evidence they have less intelligence than Darwin’s race of butterflies.

What then is a test of intelligence?

Knowing an IQ test, as a measure of intelligence, is bunk might be a good start.

Best,  Terry

Late Night Karaoke

Austerity Still An Issue. Why?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Austerity was thoroughly trounced by a couple of university grad students who discovered major omissions in the much touted study by a couple of Pete Peterson’s paid cronies. So why are we still even talking about it? Good question that no one so far has asked our fearless leader in Washington.

Up host Steve Kornacki discussed whether the elite consensus on austerity has started to shift and if there is any effect on the opinions in Washington. His guests Josh Barro, Columnist, Bloomberg View; Jared Bernsein, former economic adviser to V.P. Joe biden; Lori Montgomery, Economic Policy Reporter, The Washington Post; and Heather McGhee, Vice President, Demos; examine the lessons that can be learned from Europe’s austerity experience and what the US economy will look like if it continues on the austerity path. The panel also discussed how conservative have backed away from cuts to Social Security shifting their focus to tax reform, controlling spending through cost efficient measures and the roadblocks to getting it done.

Around the Blogosphere

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

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This is an Open Thread.

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Charles P. Pierce in his wry wit at Esquire’s Politics Bog sums up the latest obsessions of the Sunday talking heads and the latest in the bizarre world of Rand Paul: