Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccine

This lesson includes:

  • A Powerpoint guiding your lesson through stages in analysing a visual source about Edward Jenner’s Vaccine
  • A Worksheet on which students record their findings

The lesson will provide pupils with an understanding of the opposition to Jenner’s Vaccine. It will reinforce their understanding of the uses and limitations of historical sources.


Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccine: Source Analysis Lesson

This lesson comprises a powerpoint presentation and worksheet. It analyses an Anti-Vaccine League image about Edward Jenner’s Smallpox vaccine.

The presentation breaks down the image to isolate parts of the imagery. In doing so it gets pupils to look closely at a wide range of things within the source. This approach helps pupils to realise that there are often hidden meanings in visual sources.

Edward Jenner introduced the first vaccination, for Smallpox, in 1796

The presentation extracts information from the source by looking at the provenance, clearly visible elements of the content of the image and by asking pupils to make inferences. The worksheet records pupils findings.

Combined the presentation and worksheet allow pupils to gain a good understanding of the content of the source. They will be equipped to tackle questions about the motives of the artist, reasons for opposition to Vaccination and the tasks will have reinforced their ability to answer questions relating to the usefulness or reliability of source material.

Jenner’s Smallpox Vaccine

Jenner’s use of the Smallpox Vaccine was a major breakthrough in the history of medicine through time. Prior to the introduction of vaccinations, diseases had spread quickly and often reached epidemic proportions. The best example of that happening is the Black Death. Vaccination stops the disease in its tracks. Many diseases now have vaccination programmes for children, adolescents and adults. In Jenner’s day, the Smallpox vaccine he introduced was the only one available. It was viewed with suspicion. At first it didn’t always work. This led to opposition. Opposition also came from people ethical grounds, religious grounds and through simple fear and misunderstanding. This lesson looks at some of the ways that this opposition was visualised.

Eventually Jenner had a stable vaccine for Smallpox that was proven to work. He received funding for his work and the use of the vaccine was spread to other countries. As a result of his work Smallpox was eventually eradicated: though it took over 200 years to get to that point.

Jenner’s breakthrough did not lead to other vaccines being available straight away. Science couldn’t really understand what led to the Vaccine being a success. It was a little bit of good fortune that led to it being so successful. It wasn’t until the scientific revolution of the 19th Century and the competitive nature of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur that large numbers of diseases were able to be prevented with Vaccines.