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Jenner and Napoleon


AT a recent meeting of the Section of the History of Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine (Proc. Roy. Soc. Med., 32, 877; 1939), Dr. J. A. Nixon said that the world-wide eminence of Edward Jenner found no better illustration than his ability to secure the liberation of British prisoners from countries with which England was at war. One of the best known of these prisoners was the Earl of Yarmouth, the model of Thackeray's Marquess of Steyno and Disraeli's Marquess of Monmouth, on behalf of whom Jenner addressed in 1803 the following appeal to the National Institute of France: “The Sciences are never at war… Permit me then as a public body with whom I am connected to solicit the exertion of your interest in the liberation of Lord Yarmouth”. In 1805 Jenner addressed himself directly to Napoleon requesting that two of his friends, Mr. William Thomas Williams and Dr. John Wickham, both men of science and literature, might return to England. According to Baron, the well-known biographer of Jenner, it was either on this or a similar occasion that Napoleon exclaimed: “Jenner! Ah, we can refuse nothing to this man.” Jenner was also successful in obtaining the release of Sir George Sinclair, who had been arrested as a spy at Göttingen. Besides helping to liberate Englishmen detained on the Continent, Jenner issued certificates stating that travellers abroad were known to him and were undertaking a voyage in pursuit of science or health or other affairs entirely unconnected with the war, and were in his opinion entitled to protection and freedom.

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Jenner and Napoleon. Nature 144, 278 (1939).

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