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The Kid Should See This

George Washington and a history of vaccines

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“Vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest triumphs,” explains molecular biologist Dr. Raven Baxter in this animated history lesson from The American Museum of Natural History, “and their development arose from knowledge across the globe. People have been using antiviral technology for centuries.”

One of those people was General George Washington, who, during the Revolutionary War in early 1777, wrote this in a letter shared by the National Archives:

“Finding the Small pox to be spreading much and fearing that no precaution can prevent it from running through the whole of our Army, I have determined that the troops shall be inoculated. This Expedient may be attended with some inconveniences and some disadvantages, but yet I trust in its consequences will have the most happy effects.”

Smallpox during the Revolutionary War
writing a letter in 1777

“Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure, for should the disorder infect the Army in the natural way and rage with its usual virulence we should have more to dread from it than from the Sword of the Enemy.”

And in 1801, inoculation was introduced to a wider American population when “President Thomas Jefferson declared smallpox vaccination one of the nation’s first public health priorities.”

George Washington
AMNH shares this story from American history in the pandemic science video above. Learn how vaccines have worked against cholera, rabies, typhoid, the plague, and so many other highly infectious diseases throughout history, and how today’s messenger RNA or mRNA vaccine is a technology that has come from over 30 years of research.

Bonus fact, via Science Friday: “The word vaccine, and vaccination, actually comes from the name for a pox virus—the cowpox virus, vaccinia, to be exact.” Vacca is the Latin word for cow.

vacca = cow
Watch these related history and health videos next:
• The mRNA Revolution, an overnight success, decades in the making
How does the Covid vaccine work and why is it safe?
Weaving on Mount Vernon’s 18th Century Loom
• How were barrels made at Mount Vernon?
• Territorial History of the USA: Every Month for 400 Years

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