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The 2020 Annual Priestley Lecture: Edward Jenner: a man who changed the face of the world

by The Leeds Library


The 2020 Annual Priestley Lecture, sponsored by Mill Hill Chapel, The Leeds Library and Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

‘Edward Jenner: a man who changed the face of the world’ by Professor Gareth Williams, University of Bristol.

Zoom lecture to be held at 7.30pm on Thursday 26th November 2020. This is a free event but please register on the link below to receive your Zoom invitation.

‘In science credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not the man to whom the idea first occurs’. Francis Galton

After serving as Dean of Medicine and Dentistry, Gareth Williams is now Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at the University of Bristol. He has produced 200 scientific papers and over 20 medical textbooks, including the prize-winning Textbook of Diabetes. His books for general readers are Angel of Death: the story of smallpox (shortlisted for the Wellcome Medical Book Prize 2010), Paralysed with Fear: the story of polio (2013), A Monstrous Commotion: the mysteries of Loch Ness (2015), and Unravelling the Double Helix: the lost heroes of DNA (2019). He has served as Chair of the Trustees of the Edward Jenner Museum and is proud to be an Ambassador of the British Polio Fellowship.

On 14th May 1796, physician Edward Jenner carried out an experiment which, if performed today, would probably have resulted in him being struck off. By injecting an 8 year old boy with pus scraped from cowpox blisters, Jenner showed that the child could be inoculated against the far more lethal smallpox. Although he was not the first to suggest that infection with cowpox might confer specific immunity to smallpox, he is today recognised as one of the founders of immunology and pioneers of mass immunisation, which was to lead to the ultimate eradication of smallpox in 1980.

Joseph Priestley was a contemporary of Jenner, and it was most likely he who persuaded Jefferson to encourage vaccination in the newly established United States. For this alone, Jenner is a worthy subject for this year’s Priestley Lecture. But at a time when it is feared
that we have not yet seen the worst of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and all eyes are focussed with hope on current attempts to produce a viable vaccine, few Priestley Lectures can ever have been so topical or relevant to our own time.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Date and Time

Thu, November 26, 2020

7:30 pm - 8:30 pm


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