Vaccinator in chief

I was checking on the Thomas Jefferson mastodon story for the last post, and I came across an episode I hadn't been aware of. After Edward Jenner's development of the smallpox vaccine in England, it was Jefferson who advocated its use and spread in America. And more:

Jefferson became as directly involved as if he had been the health commissioner in a small city. At the time, however, he presided over five million citizens. As a public endorsement of the procedure, he had his entire family vaccinated. But he did not stop there; in 1800 he received cowpox vaccine from [Benjamin] Waterhouse and turned it over to a Dr. Grant in Washington. When it was learned that the substance was inactive (the virus had died), Jefferson himself suggested a new and successful method for maintaining live cultures during shipment (Martin 1952; pp. 39-41).
He personally directed and encouraged the distribution of vaccine to various parts of the country. On one occasion, when Chief Little Turtle and nine of his braves came to Washington on official business, Jefferson persuaded the entire party to be vaccinated. Beyond that, he sent a virus preparation with them for inoculating others in their tribe. When Lewis and Clark left on tehir long trek into the unknown northwest, they were counseled, "carry with you some matter of the kine pox. ... Instruct them [the Indians] ... in the use of it" (Martin 1952, p. 63) (Coonen and Porter 1976:747).

If you had a president in a piece of fiction who did this sort of thing, nobody would believe it. Which is sad.


Coonen LP, Porter CM. 1976. Thomas Jefferson and American biology. BioScience 26:745-750.

Martin ET. 1952. Thomas Jefferson: Scientist. Henry Schuman, New York.