Saturday, September 22, 2007

Science doesn't hurt when one reads a book like Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster, replete with colorful, yet direct stories of the smallpox scourge and the subsequent discovery of smallpox vaccination. I didn't realize how much history has been shaped by this disease. Nor, confidentially, did I understand some of the inner workings of our immune system (T cells, for instance). I never realized that the milk maids of 16th-17th century verse were immortalized because they were immune to smallpox, and therefore, always had a beautiful unscarred face. I didn't realize Queen Elizabeth had it at age 29, was heavily scarred, and wore heavy makeup and a wig to hide the disease's aftereffects. I didn't realize that germ warfare didn't begin on the Arabian Peninsula (with Hussein, for instance), but, right here, when germ-laden blankets were given to an Indian tribe which was mostly wiped out due to the high mortality rate. Gaining their land was the reason.

Cody didn't realize all those things (and more not mentioned!) before we read Albert Marrin's interesting and educational story about Dr. Jenner and how he discovered what worked as an immunity to smallpox (cowpox) and experimented until he had created the first vaccine.

An intriguing story. An excellent book. I recommend it.

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