Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
Jennifer Lee Carrell, doctorate in English and American literature,
has produced a delightful fictionalized history of the battles over inoculation
for smallpox in the latter 1600s. She aspires "to lift dry, briefly outlined
scenes into drama" by improvising dialogue and thoughts to flesh out the official
documentation. The vivid descriptions and words of friends and foes of inoculation
on both sides of the Atlantic result in a fast-reading historical novel.
The author's heroes are Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in London and Dr Zabdiel
Boylston in Boston. Lady Montagu (1689-1762) was the daughter of a British
duke and married wealth. Her legendary beauty was marred by smallpox, and
she lost family and friends to the disease. While in Turkey as the wife of
the ambassador, she learned of the practice of inoculation. On her return
to London, she championed the practice and asked that physicians inoculate
her family. Dr Boylston (1681-1766) was a surgeon, trained as an apprentice,
and apothecary in Boston. He learned of inoculation from an African slave.
Having seen the ravages of smallpox, he began to inoculate family and patients.
Kimbrough III RC. Smallpox. JAMA. 2004;291(9):1141-1142. doi:10.1001/jama.291.9.1141-b