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Notable Notes
July 2015

George Washington and Smallpox: A Revolutionary Hero and Public Health Activist

Author Affiliations
  • 1Castle Society, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(7):706. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.1

George Washington is familiar as America’s Revolutionary War general and inaugural president. But less known is that Washington, while audaciously battling the British Army, simultaneously waged a behind-the-scenes public health campaign against a serious, sinister, and pathological threat to American military readiness: smallpox.

Washington himself had contracted smallpox as a 19-year-old traveling abroad in 1751. The disease nearly took his life, but he survived with pockmark scars and life-long immunity.

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