Day 8: Don’t Think.Try!


The idea of a vaccine is counter-intuitive.

Who would think of giving a person a disease to prevent them getting a worse one?

This might explain why mainstream medicine missed vaccinations, as a treatment, for so long.

The Chinese were well aware that you can prevent lethal cases of a disease by putting small doses of it up people’s noses.

In Europe, in the late 1700s, smallpox was rampant. Individuals would inoculate themselves but it was a haphazard, dangerous art.

One shopkeeper inoculated his daughter against smallpox. The girl survived but seventeen customers picked up the disease from her and perished.

Doctors generally treated the idea of inoculating against a disease as folklore, an old wives’ tale.

Not Dr. Edward Jenner. He had other ideas.

Edward left school at the age of 13. He was apprenticed to a doctor. Early on he came across a girl in his surgery who was supremely confident she would never get smallpox.

She worked on a farm. There she had contracted cowpox. She was sure the cowpox protected her from the more deadly smallpox.

Fascinated by her confidence, he never forgot the incident. When he finally settled down to local practice he started to delve into the idea of one disease preventing another from happening.

The more research he did the more he became convinced that people who had contracted cowpox never got smallpox.

He knew he was on the verge of something big. It might be possible to inject the whole population with cowpox and so prevent the terrible deaths and disfigurations that smallpox caused.

Then he lost all self-confidence.

He raised the idea with a few other doctors. He was met with immediate scorn, searing ridicule. He was staggered. He started to doubt the whole idea himself. Could the solution be so simple, so straightforward? If it was so simple why hadn’t anyone else picked up on it?

Edward was in a bind. If he went ahead with this absurd idea of using a small disease to prevent a bigger disease he might be laughed out of medicine.

A good friend of his, John Hunter, heard of Jenner’s dilemma. He wrote 3 great words of advice to Edward: “Don’t think, try!”

Jenner accepted the advice. Confidently he ploughed on. He published the results of his research. Demand for his vaccine took off.

Within 18 months, 12,000 people were vaccinated. Within 4 years the number rocketed to 100,000. Late last century Jenner’s vaccinations had proven so successful that smallpox had been eradicated from the face of the earth.

Edward had prepared the way for the great work of Louis Pasteur who took Edward Jenner’s ideas even further.

Don’t Think, Try!

It might be a nice thought that we can get ahead without ever doubting ourselves.

The truth is we have to proceed without being 100% sure we are on the right track.

Why not accept doubt as a travelling companion and set off anyway? Take action. Set your sails and see what happens. You might just surprise yourself.

© 2019 well imagine that pty/ltd


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