Benjamin Waterhouse (1754–1846), the “Jenner of America”

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  • Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Benjamin Waterhouse's role in introducing smallpox vaccination into the United States is an especially appropriate topic for this Bicentennial symposium, because of Waterhouse's relationship with many of the founders of this nation, because of his close professional ties with several British colleagues, and because 1976 is apparently the year when smallpox will finally be eradicated from the globe.

When Benjamin Waterhouse was born in March 1754, at Newport, Rhode Island, the city of Boston just a few miles to the north was already 124 years old. Since Boston's founding, smallpox had been introduced into the town repeatedly by ships arriving from Europe or the West Indies. During Boston's sixth smallpox epidemic in 1721, the Rev. Cotton Mather and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston collaborated to introduce to the American colonies the Asian and African preventive measure of deliberate inoculation with smallpox virus.

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