The Global Eradication of Smallpox: An Oral History

Posted on 12/09/2013 by


Call for Participants- The Global Eradication of Smallpox: An Oral History

On 8th May 1980 the World Health Assembly finally declared the world free from smallpox. It had been almost two hundred years since Dr. Edward Jenner had demonstrated the effectiveness of cowpox to protect humans from smallpox, pioneering the concept of vaccination.

The worldwide campaign that led to this remarkable achievement was initiated in 1967 when an international team, the Smallpox Eradication Unit, was formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) under the leadership of an American, Donald Henderson. The WHO estimated at that time that there were still up to 15 million cases of smallpox each year.

Covering several continents, this project involved people from all over the world travelling to places such as Africa and South America, Bangladesh and India to support the effort. An intense   programme of surveillance, containment and vaccination was carried out by thousands of international workers and volunteers who came together and worked tirelessly to rid the world of the ‘speckled monster’.

The Jenner Museum holds a considerable archive of first hand accounts and materials relating to the Smallpox Eradication Programme, many of which can be seen in our ‘Eradication Room’.  In partnership with the CDC Foundation, and working with oral historian Gemma Geldart, we are now looking to expand this collection by gathering recollections and recording oral history interviews with eradication veterans involved in the campaign. We hope this project will create a lasting resource to support future publication, display and exhibition at the Museum.

If you were involved in the campaign and are interested in being a part of this project or would like more information, Gemma would love to hear from you and be happy to discuss ways in which we might best add your contribution to the project.


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