|By Dr. B. M. Hegde, India [ Published Date: April 2, 2010 ]|
"Choose being kind over being right, and you'll be right every time." -- Richard Carlson
There is a move in England today to reinstate Edward Jennerís statue to its original place in Trafalgar Square from where it was removed to be kept in Kensington Gardens as Jennerís detractors at that time felt that he did not deserve the honour in the first place. It was Prince Albert, a great admirer of Jenner, who put up the statue at the Trafalgar Square in the first place with money raised from his friends and Jennerís admirers outside the British Empire, leading among them being Napoleon, who was an ardent fan of Jenner. History is what historians write. It need not (usually is not) the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, anyway. Let us examine the circumstances under which Jenner was credited with the eradication of small pox, a dreaded killer, from this universe.
Jenner was a practising country doctor in London of the eighteenth century when smallpox, cholera and plague were the dreaded diseases that wiped out almost the whole populations at times. On May 14th, 1796 Jenner removed the contents of a cow pox pustule from one of his patients, a dairymaid by name Sarah Nelmes, to be inoculated into an orphan aged eight years, James Phipps, who was running errands for Jenner in his clinic. The whole experiment was based on the assurance of Sarah Nelmes that she was sure that she would not contact small pox because she had cow pox and that she believed that there is cross immunity between the two! Let us dispassionately assess this experiment which could have, in fact, branded Jenner even a criminal. By todayís research ethical standards he was not an ordinary criminal but one that could have a FIR for attempt to homicide punishable with life imprisonment. James came down with a very severe attack of cow pox but survived by the skin of his teeth. Jenner then inoculated this boy with pus from a small pox patient and the boy remained healthy six weeks later. Jenner called this a successful experiment and called the method vaccination after the Latin word Vacca meaning cow. Child abuse is another crime that he had committed in using this innocent eight year old orphan for his fancy experiment without the boy realising the risks involved and the gravity of the potentially fatal procedure!
The demand for this vaccination spread all over Europe and America with Napoleon supporting Jennerís method wholeheartedly. Jenner went on to write his classic, An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, where he hypothesized that cow pox and small pox are the two viruses which had cross resistance. However, he confused the variolae for both the viruses, a term he is supposed to have introduced to medicine for the first time. In retrospect, this whole episode needs to be condemned in no uncertain terms as the experiment was a criminal act and the scientific presumption that the two viruses were identically anti-genetically has been shown to be flawed. The two viruses are genetically distinct and they do not cross react. The reported fall in the incidence of small pox could now be accounted for since many people used the small pox pus for vaccination instead of the cow pox pus. In addition, people could have had their immune system protecting them better because of the placebo effect of having had their vaccine support! Placebo effect has now been proven to be a reality where researchers have been able to demonstrate the secretion of very powerful opioids from the forebrain that could even be blocked, for experimental purposes, by Naloxone injections.
What saved the world from the ravages of small pox and its eventual eradication is the hard work of a great physician scientist, Dr. TZ Holwell MD, FRCP, FRS, who along with nineteen other scientists was sent to India by the East India Company to study the wonderful science and technology in the eighteenth century India which was then called Indostan (British name). Holwell studied the highly scientifically evolved vaccination method practised by the "Brahmin" (priests) teachers of the five great Universities in India for "times out of mind". Holwell remained in India for twenty years in "The Bengall" of those days to prospectively study the vaccination method and its results for that length of time. When he returned in 1767 AD, he submitted an elaborate report of his scientific studies in India about small pox vaccination to the Royal College of Physicians in the Regentís Park. This report could be viewed even today in their archives. Although partially burnt down in the great fire in London those days, it could be read. It is also on their web site. Detailed description of the methods of vaccination etc in India could be obtained from my article in an indexed journal. (Hegde BM. Vaccination in India. Jr. Associ. Physi. India 1998; 46: 472-473) When the King eventually accepted the report to be kept on the pedestal, vaccination by that method was made universal. This precedes all efforts by Edward Jenner although historians never ever mentioned it. Even the India medical historians did not know about it!
Dr. Charles Creighton, a brilliant Scottish physician, in his classic Jenner and Vaccination, records to correct history to show the fallacies in Jennerís claim. I better quote him verbatim lest the punch should be lost. "Now the name variolae vaccine is the Latin name for cow pox. This affection of the cows and milkers was known as cow pox for generations of villagers is now suddenly introduced to the learned, who had never heard of it before, under a brand new name. The new name is put in the forefront of the title, it overshadows the old country name both by its prominence and by its semblance of scientific precision, and, for purposes of short reference, and it becomes the sole name. This startling novelty is on the title pages. Jenner never says, in the preface or text, that name is a new one, hitherto unheard of in veterinary and medical writings; copied in journals and repeated in a hundred ways when not one word of the essay would be copied or repeated carrying with it, in short, all the power of the ideas that a descriptive synonym for an unfamiliar thing does naturally carry with it. (Page 44) This is like saying that a horse chestnut (a tree) and a chestnut horse are the same thing or that a beetle (an insect) is the same thing as a Beatle (a rock musician). The only correlation between small pox and cowpox is that both names ended in POX. Heaven and Hell both start with the same letter H but they are vastly different places."
That tells it all. In fact, genetic finger printing shows the two viruses to be distinct and having no cross reactivity anti-genetically. Edward Jenner could have no claim to have eradicated small pox from this world. The Indian vaccination system existed in India for "times out of mind" according to Holwell and he should be given credit for bringing it to the notice of the scientific world to initiate the process of eradicating this scourge. In my opinion Dr. TZ Holwell could be recognised posthumously with a statue in Trafalgar Square along with the great Admirals and Generals to keep company. Usually it is not the one who finds a new thing that is honored in the world but the one that brings it to the notice of the world for the common good that needs recognition as well.
"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." -- Winston Churchill.
Dr. B. M. Hegde MD, FRCP, FRCPE, FRCPG, FRCPI, FACC, FAMS, is editor-in-chief of The Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes; chairman, State Health Societyís Expert Committee, Govt. of Bihar, India, Visiting Prof. Cardiology at The Middlesex Hospital Medical School - University of London, Affiliate Prof. of Human Health - Northern Colorado University, Visiting Prof. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies - Shimla, Retd. Vice Chancellor, MAHE University - Manipal. Prof Hedge regularly gives talks on AIR, Doordarshan, BBC and Zee TV, London.