Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Benjamin Waterhouse

i took this pic long ago, at the mount auburn cemetery in cambridge (for an earlier post about this cemetery, click here). this is the grave of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, who died at age 92 in 1846. i took this picture because i liked this stone, and it is not usual to see that much text on a grave. upon reading it, i became even more curious! i put the pic in my "to post sometime, but first need to read more about this person" folder, and never did so. but thanks to taphophile tragics, im finally posting it! when waterhouse, born in the usa, was 21, he went to europe to study medicine, both in britain and the netherlands; he got his degree in leiden (as you can read on the stone; leyden). back in the us, he became professor at harvard medical school. in europe he had learned about the small pox vaccine, which he wanted to introduce in the us. he wrote to the then-president, john adams, as they had been roommates in the netherlands (how interesting!). when a reply did not come, he wrote to the vice-president, thomas jefferson, and when he became president in 1801, waterhouse introduced the vaccine. he did the first vaccinations on 4 of his 6 children, i guess the ultimate proof that a doctor deems something safe... he then also did a "controlled experiment" in which he deliberately exposed 19 vaccinated and 2 unvaccinated boys to the smallpox virus; the latter 2 died. (well into the 20th century this kind of experiments happened. i suggest this book if you want to know more about that). and so, he brought this vaccine to the usa. vaccines were discovered by edward jenner in 1796, when he noticed that milkmaids who caught the cowpox virus did not catch smallpox. by 1977, this deadly pathogenic disease has been eradicated, thanks to vaccination! it is said that jenner's discovery leading to vaccines has saved more lives than any other person...
of course, i got most of this knowledge from wikipedia... i could read it for hours, just following links... :) but.. tonight, the english wikipedia will be unavailable for 24 hours, to protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. if you want to know more about that; click here.
now i really digressed too much... to see other taphophile tragics, click here!