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Small wooden box to hold calf lymph, England, 1900-1910

After calves had been inoculated with smallpox, the lymph containing white blood cells which fight against disease are extracted and preserved in capillary tubes. The lymph could then be used to vaccinate people against smallpox. Calf lymph replaced the human kind in 1898 as human lymph spread other infections, such as syphilis. The Army Vaccine Institute in Aldershot used this box to store lymph. The Institute produced enough calf lymph to inoculate 126,280 people a year. This was not without its dangers. For example, in 1906 questions were asked in the House of Commons following the post-vaccination deaths from blood poisoning of a small number of army recruits.

Object number:

A602779

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    Glossary:

    Glossary: capillary tube

    A glass tube with a very small internal diameter.

    Glossary: syphilis

    A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.

    Glossary: lymph

    Clear, slightly yellowish fluid derived from the blood and similar in composition to plasma. Lymph conveys white blood cells and some nutrients to the tissues.

    Glossary: smallpox

    Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.

    Glossary: inoculation

    Introduction of material (usually a vaccine) into the body with the aim of producing or boosting immunity to a specific disease.

    Glossary: box - container

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