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Smallpox anniversary marked in Gloucestershire

Archaeologists digging in Jenner's garden

Archaeologists digging in Jenner's garden

Press release issued: 13 May 2010

2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the global eradication of smallpox. A garden in Gloucestershire and University of Bristol academics are playing a key part in the commemoration, to coincide with the birthday of Edward Jenner, the country doctor who discovered vaccination and administered the first smallpox innoculation at his house in Berkeley, Gloucestershire in 1798.

Professor Mark Horton of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Professor Gareth Williams of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, have been working with the Edward Jenner Museum in Berkeley to tell the story of the discovery of vaccination to coincide with the anniversary. On Monday 17 May, on Jenner’s actual birthday, the BBC will be showing a documentary on Edward Jenner, presented by Professor Horton, as part of the much-acclaimed History of the World season. On the same day, a statue that commemorates the eradication of smallpox will be unveiled at the World Health Organisation’s headquarters in Geneva.

On Sunday 16 May, the Edward Jenner Museum in Berkeley will be holding a garden party, sponsored by the Royal Society, as part of their 350th anniversary, which will feature a range of activities. These will include viewing the archaeological excavations being undertaken in the gardens by the University of Bristol which have uncovered part of Jenner’s own garden, as well as Saxon and Medieval remains. During the next few weeks, archaeologists will also be investigating Jenner’s Temple of Vaccina, where he inoculated many of the local population.

The anniversary is also being marked by the publication of a new book, written by Professor Gareth Williams, entitled Angel of Death: the Story of Smallpox. This book has uncovered much new material about the history of smallpox and the setting of Jenner’s pioneering work in Berkeley.

Professor Mark Horton, commenting on the weekend of activities, said: “It is exciting to use this anniversary to tell the story of one of the great medical discoveries that was made here in the West Country. Jenner hoped that his vaccination method would lead to the global eradication of smallpox.  It may have taken 180 years, but smallpox remains the only disease eradicated by mankind.”

The Edward Jenner Museum is located in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, and is open to the public from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Tickets are still available for the garden party on Sunday16 May, between 11.00 am and 5pm.

Jenner’s Marvellous Medicine will be screened on BBC1 West, 7.30pm presented by Mark Horton. The documentary is part of the BBC’s History of the World Season.

Angel of Death, the Story of Smallpox, by Gareth Williams is published by Palgrave Macmillian. (£18.99 - all proceeds to the Jenner Museum, from where signed copies can be obtained.)


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