Jenner Avenue, W3

Place Name

Originally laid out over an estate called The Friars the land later became Leamington Park Hospital (For Aged Women). The property along with 12.25 acres had been bought by Acton Urban District Council in 1902 to be used as an isolation hospital. This in turn was taken over by the London County Council in 1929 and by 1946 it became an annexe to the Central Middlesex Hospital. It was renamed Leamington Park Hospital (after a street nearby) to avoid confusion with the Acton Hospital in Gunnersbury Lane. The hospital closed in 1983 and by 2008 the land was a residential estate with new roads named after various medical personalities. Edward Jenner (May 17, 1749 – January 26, 1823) is known as the “father of immunology” whose studies are said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other human”. It was Jenner who in 1798 popularised the use of Variolae vaccinae (cow pox) as a way of protecting humans against the ravages of smallpox. Jenner was by no means the first to make the link between the two poxes. It was while working as an apprentice to an apothecary in Sodbury, near Bristol, that he heard a dairymaid say: “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox. I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face.” Indeed, it was a common belief that dairymaids were in some way protected from smallpox. After becoming a medical student in London under John Hunter, Jenner went on to occupy himself with many topics including the study of cuckoos. His 1788 paper on the subject included the original observation that it is the cuckoo hatchling that evicts the eggs and chicks of the foster parents from the nest. This study was rejected by many naturalists and later used for decades by the anti-vaccination lobby as evidence of Jenner’s crackpot ideas – until 1921 when evidence that he was right was caught on camera. His cuckoo study however was a sideshow. In May 1796, Jenner met Sarah Nelms, a young dairymaid who had recently contracted cowpox who had fresh lesions on her hands and arms. Taking some of the matter from the sores he injected James Phipps, a boy aged eight who was working in Jenner’s garden. Over the next few days the boy developed a mild fever and discomfort in the armpit. By day nine he had lost his appetite but the following day he felt better. Two months after the initial inoculation Jenner gave the boy matter from a fresh smallpox lesion – no disease developed. His findings however were rejected by the Royal Society, only later when more studies were carried out and the production of his booklet An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a disease discovered in some of the western counties of England, particularly Gloucestershire and Known by the Name of Cow Pox were they accepted. Stefan Riedel of the Department of Pathology, Baylor University Medical Center, writes: “Strictly speaking, [Jenner] did not discover vaccination but was the first person to confer scientific status on the procedure and to pursue its scientific investigation.” However, it was that investigation that advanced the understanding by many years and within a short while inoculation became accepted and proved effective in eventually wiping out the scourge of smallpox across the world.




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