Wednesday, December 1, 2010
One famous lady scarred by the pox was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who even lost her eyelashes to the disease. While living in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) Lady Mary observed that the locals had come up with a form of preventative medicine: inoculation. When an infected individual developed the pustules (which would eventually burst causing the worst smell imaginable) the goop inside the pustule would be collected and then either poked with a needle or cut into with a knife into the person to be inoculated. Children were more susceptible to the disease and also took to the inoculation better than adults. After a few days a blister would develop in that area and pop and by then the patient was filled with all the wonderful antibodies needed to fight off the disease. You can imagine Lady Mary's delight in learning the procedure.
When Lady Mary informed England of inoculation it received mixed reactions. Many dismissed it primarily because the procedure came from the barbarian Turks. Others snubbed inoculation because a female brought about its attention. One person who was totally open to the idea was Queen Caroline and she quickly convinced her husband to investigate. King George II tested inoculation out on prisoners who were promised freedom for their part in the case study. When all the prisoners survived the ordeal the King and Queen had their own daughters inoculated which was also a success.
Not all inoculations were a success however. When George III and Queen Charlotte ruled, they had all their children inoculated while still babies or toddlers. Sadly, Prince Alfred, their fourteenth child died from complications from smallpox inoculation, sending the family into a deep and unofficial mourning. Still, many British families, especially in the aristocracy, chose to inoculate their children. Lady Spencer was firm in her opinion that all her grandchildren should receive the procedure.