Photograph of Archibald Watson (taken around 1890)
Archibald Watson FRCS (1849 – 1940) was an Australian surgeon and professor of anatomy at the University of Adelaide. He is commemorated in the prestigious Archibald Watson Lecture of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
The 2018 lecture was given by Peter Burke a member of the BSHM. Peter’s lecture graphically illustrates the colourful career of this brilliant but mercurial man.
Watson’s medical education included study in England, France, and Germany. He entered and passed the ‘College and Hall’ in London (MRCS and LSA) and was later awarded 2 MDs and FRCS. During his life, Watson served in the Boer War and World War 1 and travelled widely. He taught anatomy, pathology and operative surgery in Adelaide and achieved an unrivalled reputation as a teacher and consultant.
On the 14th May 1796 Edward Jenner carried out the first stage of his now famous vaccination experiment and inoculated a young boy named James Phipps with cowpox. To this day Jenner’s name is associated with the discovery of vaccination as a concept, and the worldwide eradication of smallpox. However, there were others who helped light the path to Jenner’s discovery, and even carried out that same experiment decades before Jenner.
Vaccination could not have happened without the development of variolation; the process of inoculating healthy individuals with smallpox matter in order to confer immunity against the disease. It was based on the observations that a primary attack of smallpox often provided a degree of immunity against contracting the disease again in the future. It was introduced to Britain in the early eighteenth century by Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, who had come across the concept of ‘smallpox parties’ whilst living in Turkey. Following the successful variolation of her own son, she also had her daughter inoculated with smallpox matter in 1721 by the surgeon Charles Maitland. Others soon followed suit, including a royal variolation when George II had his two daughters inoculated with smallpox, at the request of his wife Caroline, Princess of Wales.
The concept gradually spread across the country, but it was not until it reached the county of Suffolk and the ears of a young surgeon named Robert Sutton, that it truly took off. Sutton advertised variolation as a service, including bed and board with the added incentive of ‘tea, wine, fish and fowl’ all for a monthly fee. Gradually inoculation houses started to appear across the country, inspired by the likes of Sutton and his business enterprise.
It was at one of these inoculation houses that in 1768 John Fewster, a Gloucestershire surgeon and apothecary, recognised that a great number of patients could not be infected with smallpox. On enquiry he discovered that they had all previously been infected with cowpox. He made note of this and communicated it to a small medical society of which he as a member at the time. It just so happened that Edward Jenner was also present at this society meeting, as a young apprentice to another local surgeon named Daniel Ludlow. Fewster was a strong supporter of the Suttonian method of variolation and he did not recognise the importance or see the need at the time for the development of inoculation with cowpox.
It would be wrong to talk about the history of vaccination without mentioning Benjamin Jesty (1736-1816), a dairy farmer from Yetminster, in Dorset. Not only did he recognise the protective effect that cowpox had over smallpox, but he also went so far as to vaccinate his wife and children with cowpox in 1774, at least twenty years prior to Jenner’s famous experiment. Furthermore he tested his vaccination trial in 1789 when his two sons were variolated by their local doctor and they did not go on to exhibit any signs of a reaction. Jesty unfortunately did not go on to publish his results, and perhaps due to the public outrage that ensued when the locals discovered that he had inoculated his family with animal matter, did not go out of his way to publicise them either. However, his experiment did not go unrecognised, and he was invited to attend George Pearson’s Original Vaccine Pock Institute in 1805. The physicians at that institute decided that Jesty’s experiment had pre-empted Jenner’s, and they awarded him with a testimonial scroll stating just this.
It is evident that the history of vaccination is more complex than the well-known story of Jenner, the milkmaid and the cow. The concept of cowpox being protective against smallpox was reportedly widely known throughout the dairy country in England and across the continent in Germany. However, it cannot be disputed that Jenner was the only one to make this fact publicly known and to recognise the importance that this discovery could have in the fight against smallpox. It was his determination and dedication to the subject which subsequently led to the World Health Organisation declaring the eradication of smallpox on 8th May 1980.
More can be discovered about this fascinating subject by paying a visit to Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. https://jennermuseum.com/
Roy Porter, ‘The Prevention of Smallpox’, in The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. A Medical History from Antiquity to the Present.(London: HarperCollins, 1999) 275-6
S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler, Smallpox: A History (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2013),18
Robert Jesty and Gareth Williams, ‘Who invented vaccination’, Malta Medical Journal, 23, 2 (2011) 29-32
Lydia Thurston and Gareth Williams, ‘An examination of John Fewster’s role in the discovery of smallpox vaccination’, J R Coll Physicians Edinb,45 (2015) 173-179
Patients on the balcony of the Bernhard Baron Hospital, Papworth Village Settlement
Royal Papworth Hospital is a leading cardiothoracic hospital and is best known for its trailblazing work in transplantation since performing the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979. However, Papworth has a long standing tradition of pioneering work since its inception as a tuberculosis colony, 100 years ago.
At a time when 41,800 in the UK died from tuberculosis, a young Welshman Dr (later Sir) Pendrill Varrier-Jones was appointed Cambridgeshire TB Officer during WWI. Following sanatorium treatment patients would risk a relapse when they returned to the overcrowded, unsanitary and damp conditions which had led to infection in the first instance. Frustrated by this cycle, Varrier-Jones took a holistic approach to care and wanted to develop a combined treatment and rehabilitation facility that would leave patients, “a useful and productive member of society, a man who, though a consumptive, has learned to be a consumptive, to lead the life of a consumptive and even enjoy that life.”
Having successfully established treatment for a small number of patients in 1916 in the nearby village of Bourn, Varrier-Jones’ vision went through a process of rapid expansion. Papworth Hall was purchased following a large charitable donation in 1917 with the first patients arriving on 12 February 1918. Patients were prescribed bed rest, a hearty diet and ample fresh air. Once the patient’s condition had improved they were moved onto graduated work within one of the light industries and provisions were available for family members to also settle in the village. Sir Varrier-Jones’ revolutionary aim was to treat the “whole-person,” by providing treatment, suitable employment and allowing patients a home life.
With the discovery of streptomycin in the 1940s, the number of TB patients declined and what was then known as the Papworth Village Settlement opened its remit to include people with other disabilities. This led to the creation of the Papworth Trust, a charity which continues to support disabled people. In 1948, the hospital officially became part of the NHS and became known as Papworth Hospital which moved from the treatment of TB to specialise in chest medicine.
2018 is an important next chapter for us. It’s the year when we become Royal Papworth Hospital, commemorate our centenary, celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, and move from the village of Papworth Everard to our new state-of-the-art hospital located in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. We’ve made a film to commemorate with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (for trailer click here) with the first screening coinciding with the NHS’ 70th birthday on 5th July at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, this will be followed by screenings in the village of Papworth Everard on 21st July (to book click here) with additional screenings planned for the autumn. This film and screenings were made possible with a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Papworth Hospital Charity
Nico Ferguson, Heritage Assistant Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
The Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was originally published in Latin by the Royal College of Physicians in 1618 and translated into English by Nicholas Culpepper in the middle of the seventeenth century. To celebrate its 400th anniversary an illustrated version of the book is to be published later this year.
I am delighted to be one of a number of contemporary botanical artists asked to contribute to this exciting project. I have selected to paint the beautiful and intriguing ‘Rosa damascena’ or the damask rose. A strongly scented rose it is famous for its use in perfume with the fresh petals either distilled as rose water or as one of the worlds most expensive essential oils, 100ml costs more than £1500.00, the petals are also used dried and the hips used fresh or dried. Rosa damascena essential oil is composed of hundreds of components, including citronellol, citral, carvone, citronellyl acetate, eugenol, ethanol, farnesol, stearpoten, methyl eugenol, nerol, nonanol, nonanal, phenylacetaldehyde, phenylmethyl acetate, and phenyl geraniol. There is evidence of its use medicinally going back to the seventh century with a particular link to Iran and the Middle East. Recent studies of the pharmacological effects of the damask rose show it has not only antibacterial and anti oxidant effects, but also anti-viral, anti-depressant, anti-diabetic, analgesic and hypnotic properties.
I was particularly interested in taking part in this medicinal plant project as I have a multidisciplinary art practice with a strong research base informed by my career as a horticulturalist working in therapeutic community gardens. I use plants as a way of telling stories about our relationships with the natural world.
Historians will be familiar with the challenges of researching an archive: sifting through a pile of dusty records, drawing a blank in a confusing catalogue, or scoring hundreds of hits searching an electronic database. With the help of an archive expert, however, the rewards outweigh the effort required.
When preparing for my presentation on English medical researcher Dr Annie Homer at the recent BSHM Congress in Edinburgh, I wanted to find out more about her time in Canada at the start of the First World War. In particular, she had served as the Assistant Director of the University of Toronto’s Antitoxin Laboratory, the forerunner of the Connaught Laboratories.
Extract from Antitoxin Laboratory Record of Diphtheria Antitoxin Refining, dated Sept 28th, 1914 [SPC Archives 83-006-01]
I contacted Dr Christopher Rutty, professional medical and public health historian, and consultant to Sanofi Pasteur Canada’s Connaught Campus in Toronto, where the original buildings and archive documents are preserved as part of the country’s medical heritage. By return e-mail, Chris sent me a copy of a lab notebook, which contained several pages written in Homer’s distinctive hand, revealing her work at the start of the war. The preservation of this “missing link” was a stroke of good fortune.
The Connaught Laboratories, University of Toronto, officially opened on Oct 25th, 1917 [SPC Archives 0591]
The Connaught Laboratories were established in 1917 to make up a shortfall of tetanus antitoxin needed by the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and became the site of pioneering advances in the production of vaccines, heparin and insulin. More information is available via The Legacy Project which can be viewed online at www.thelegacyproject.ca