AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

JENNER, Edward (1749-1823)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-JENNE
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: JENNER, Edward (1749-1823)
Date(s): 1787-1806
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Jenner | Edward | 1749-1823 | physician and naturalist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, on 17 May 1749, the youngest son of Stephen Jenner, vicar at Berkeley. His father died when Jenner was five years old, and his eldest brother Stephen directed his education. From the age of eight he was sent to school at nearby Wotton-under-Edge, and then to Cirencester Grammar School. During his time at Cirencester Jenner developed an interest in natural history, collecting the fossils that were abundant in the area. In 1761 he was apprenticed to a surgeon, Daniel Ludlow of Sodbury, before, at the age of 21, enrolling as a resident house pupil of the great surgeon John Hunter, in London. Over the next two years he received his most important education, and began a lifelong friendship with Hunter. On Hunter's recommendation Jenner was employed to prepare some of the specimens brought back from James Cook's circumnavigation of the world in 1771. He went on to pursue his studies at St George's Hospital, London.

In 1773 he returned to Berkeley to set up practice, and soon became successful. In his spare time he made botanical and ornithological observations, continued to collect fossils, played the flute and violin, and wrote poetry. He made observations on the temperature of animals. Hunter encouraged him in this task, and upon his request Jenner sent him specimens of salmon-spawn, porpoises, cuckoos, and fossils.

Jenner helped establish a medical society in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, whose members met to read papers on medical subjects before dining together. Jenner contributed papers on angina pectoris, ophthalmia and valvular disease of the heart and commented on cowpox, which had already begun to concern him. He also belonged to a similar society which met in Alveston, near Bristol. In 1787 Jenner wrote a paper on the `Natural History of the Cuckoo', which was published in the Philosophical Transactions the following year. Some discrepancies exist in the text; due it is thought to the fact that Jenner had instructed his nephew to make the observations. The latter, upon being directed by Jenner to perform this task, gave his uncle an imaginary report. In 1788 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. It was in March of that year that Jenner married Catharine Kingscote.

Jenner's burgeoning practice forced him to give up surgery and midwifery. In 1792 he obtained his MD from the University of St Andrews. In 1793 he published `A Process for Preparing Pure Emetic Tartar by Recrystallisation' in the Transactions of the Society for the Improvement of Medical and Chirurgical Knowledge.

In 1794 Jenner suffered severely from typhus fever. Upon his recovery he continued his investigations into the protective power of cowpox against smallpox, the commonest of diseases affecting all levels of society. He was at this time well aware of the widely held belief that diary maids who had contracted cowpox did not get smallpox. In May 1796 he vaccinated a young boy with lymph taken from vesicles of cowpox, which the boy accordingly developed. The boy was then inoculated with smallpox in July, which did not develop thus proving Jenner's argument. Jenner summarised his observations in a paper, `On the Cow-pox, the Original Paper', which was never printed. He stayed in London from April to July 1798 publicising his discovery in medical circles, however he failed to find any volunteers for vaccination. In June 1798 he published a fuller account, which became a medical classic, An Inquiry into the Cause 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 the Cow-pox. Interest did arise after Jenner's return to Berkeley, from a surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital, London, who was vaccinating patients with lymph given to him by Jenner, but Jenner was not keen to return to the capital.

Opposition to Jenner's discovery inevitably arose and, in reply to his critics, Jenner published Further Observations on the Variolae Vaccinae or Cow-pox (1799). He continued his work on vaccination in Berkeley and in Cheltenham, before returning to London in March 1799. From 1800 he lived in the capital for part of each year. The practice of vaccination slowly began to gain ground, though errors due to carelessness and ignorance did occur. Developments included discussion on the establishment of a vaccine institution, sending lymph throughout England and abroad, being presented to the King and then the Queen, and vaccinating the 85th regiment and then the British fleet. In 1800 he published A Continuation of Facts and Observations Relative to the Variolae Vaccinae or Cow-pox, and A Complete Statement of Facts and Observations Relative to the Cow-pock. During 1801 he received a number of congratulatory addresses and medals, including a medal from the medical officers of the British fleet, a ring from the Empress of Russia, and a service of plate from the gentry of Gloucestershire.

In 1802, on the advice of his friends, he petitioned Parliament for remuneration due to the time spent on his discovery preventing him acquiring his professional income. With the King's recommendation the petition went to a committee, which investigated the usefulness of the discovery and Jenner's right to claim to be the discoverer. It was proposed that he be granted 10,000. It has been said that whilst he sought just public reward for his services he showed `complete freedom from any wish to enrich himself unworthily when riches were in his power' (DNB, 1892, p.324). Jenner returned to Berkeley until February 1803, when he again visited London. He became involved with the Jennerian Institution, a society concerned with promoting vaccination to eradicate smallpox. In 1808, with government aid, this society became the National Vaccine Establishment.

Jenner took a house in Mayfair and set up practice as a physician, but success was not forthcoming and he returned to Berkeley. He became a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Society on its foundation in 1805, and subsequently presented to them a number of papers. With his professional practice so impeded by his work promoting vaccination he again applied to Parliament for aid in 1806. An inquiry set up by the Royal College of Physicians reported favourably on the advantages of vaccination and the merits of Jenner. The House of Commons consequently awarded him 20,000.

In 1811 he was seriously ill. Upon his recovery he returned to London, and noticed that a significant number of cases of smallpox after vaccination were occurring. He found that in these cases the severity of the illness was notably diminished by the previous vaccination. In 1813 the University of Oxford awarded him the degree of MD.

In April 1814 he visited London for the last time, and stayed three months. He met the Czar, his sister the Duchess of Oldenburg, and the King of Prussia. He then returned first to Cheltenham, where his wife died in 1815, and then to live in Berkeley. In 1820 Jenner had an apoplexy attack from which he completely recovered. In 1821 he was appointed Physician Extraordinary to King George IV and was made Mayor of Berkeley and Justice of the Peace. In 1822 he published A Letter to C.H. Parry, MD, on the Influence of Artificial Eruptions in Certain Diseases Incidental to the Human Body, and wrote Observations on the Migration of Birds (1823), which he read to the Royal Society on 23 November 1822.

On 26 January 1823 he had another attack of apoplexy and died, one son and one daughter survived him, the eldest son having died of tuberculosis at the age of 21. Jenner was buried on 3 February 1823 in the chancel of the parish church of Berkeley. A marble statue of Jenner was erected in the nave of Gloucester Cathedral, whilst a bronze statue was erected in Trafalgar Square in 1858, which was moved to Kensington Gardens in 1862. Jenner made an invaluable contribution to medicine, with innumerable lives being saved throughout the world by his discovery. Vaccination became compulsory in the United Kingdom in 1853, and spread throughout Europe during the nineteenth century. In 1967 the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a worldwide vaccination programme; by 1979 the disease was eradicated.

An Inquiry into the Cause 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 the Cow-pox (London, 1798)
Further Observations on the Variolae Vaccinae or Cow-pox (London, 1799)
A Continuation of Facts and Observations Relative to the Variolae Vaccinae or Cow-pox (1800)
A Complete Statement of Facts and Observations Relative to the Cow-pock, Thomas Paytherus, Edward Jenner, & William Woodville (London, 1800)
On the Origin of Vaccine Innoculation (London, 1801)
On the Varieties and Modifications of the Vaccine Pustule, Occasioned by an Herpetic State of the Skin (Cheltenham, 1806)
A Letter to C.H. Parry, MD, on the Influence of Artificial Eruptions in Certain Diseases Incidental to the Human Body (London, 1822)
Observations on the Migration of Birds (1823)

Publications by Others about Jenner:
The Life of Edward Jenner, John Baron (London, 1838)
Monument a Edward Jenner; Ou, Histoire Generale de la Vaccine a l'Occasion du Premier Centenaire de son Invention, Adolphe Pierre Burggraeve (Brussels, 1875)
Edward Jenner and the Discovery of Smallpox Vaccination, Louis Harry Roddis (Menasha, Wisconsin, 1930)
The Note-book of Edward Jenner in the Possession of the Royal College of Physicians of London, with an Introduction on Jenner's Work as a Naturalist by F. Dawtrey Drewitt, Frederick Dawtrey Drewitt (London, 1931)
Edward Jenner, Conqueror of Small Pox, Boswell Taylor (London, 1950)
A Bio-Bibliography of Edward Jenner, 1749-1823, William Richard LeFanu (London, 1951)
Dr Jenner of Berkeley, Dorothy Fisk (London, 1959)
Jenner and the Miracle of Vaccine, Edward F. Dolan, Jr. (New York, 1960)
Edward Jenner and Vaccination, Anthony John Harding Rains (London, 1974)
Edward Jenner's Cowpox Vaccine: The History of a Medical Myth, Peter Razzell (Firle, Sussex, 1980)
Letters of Edward Jenner and Other Documents Concerning the Early History of Vaccination, from the Henry Barton Jacobs Collection in the William H. Welch Medical Library, Genevieve Miller (ed.) (Baltimore, 1983)
Edward Jenner, Charles Bruce Perry ([Bristol] [1984?])
Edward Jenner, 1749-1823, Richard B. Fisher (London, 1991)
The Eradication of Smallpox: Edward Jenner and the First and Only Eradication of a Human Infectious Disease, Herve Bazin (San Diego, 2000)


Scope and content/abstract:

Jenner's diary, 1787-1806, containing his observations on the natural history of the cuckoo, and notes on his dissections of other birds and various domestic animals.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The diary contains the bookplate of the Rev. George Charles Jenner, Jenner's nephew. It is likely that it was in his possession for a time.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented to the Royal College of Physicians by Dr Jeffrey Allen Marston on 2 February 1888.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There is material relating to Jenner held elsewhere in the College archives, including a circular of the Royal Jennerian Society addressed by Jenner to Sir John Buchanan Riddell (d.1819), 1808 (MS108/8); Regulations and transactions of the Gloucestershire Medical Society written by Jenner and others, including notes and papers by Jenner, 1788-96 (MS736); Letter from Jenner to Mr Phillips referring to the College inquiry into vaccination and family and political matters, 1807, an engraving of Jenner, and his silhouette, in a medical scrapbook (MS735); History of inoculation in England by Alexander Pearson, in Chinese with copy of English translation sent to Jenner, 1805 (MS485); Notes on classification of diseases by J./T. Walthall?, with references to Jenner, c.1795-c.1803 (MS619); Note regarding the presentation of Jenner's cow-horn to the College by Sir John Fisher (1787-1876), amongst College papers on presentations and bequests to the College (MS2002/1). There are also a number of Jenner's letters and references to Jenner amongst the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS).

Correspondence and papers, 1772-1823, are held at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine; Correspondence and papers, and John Hunter's letters to Jenner 1773-93, are held at the Royal College of Surgeons of England; Correspondence, diary, papers, and his letters to Thomas Grimston Bucknall Estcourt (1775-1853), 1805-9, are held at Gloucestershire Record Office; Observations on the cuckoo, 1787, are held at the Royal Society; His letters to Alexander John Gaspard Marcet (1770-1822) are held at the Royal Society of Medicine; Other letters are held at the Jenner Museum, Berkeley; Papers, 1790, are held at McGill University Osler Library, Montreal; Letters, 1787-1822, are held at Johns Hopkins University Libraries, Baltimore; Correspondence and papers (transcripts), 1788-1823, are held at the University of Michigan William L. Clements Library; Papers, 1800-22, are held at the Duke University Medical Library, Durham, North Carolina. See the National Register of Archives for details.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Jenner's diary was transcribed in the publication The Note-book of Edward Jenner in the Possession of the Royal College of Physicians of London, with an Introduction on Jenner's Work as a Naturalist by F. Dawtrey Drewitt, Frederick Dawtrey Drewitt (London, 1931)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XXIX, Sidney Lee (ed.) (London, 1892) [DNB, 1892, pp.321-24]; Edward Jenner and Vaccination, Anthony John Harding Rains (London, 1974); Edward Jenner, 1749-1823, Richard B. Fisher (London, 1991); Historical Manuscripts Commission On-Line National Register of Archives.
Compiled by Katharine Williams

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Compiled June 2003; Modified September 2003

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"