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Cow horn, inscribed with 'G C Jenner 1825', England, 1796-1798

This horn is reputedly from the cow that Edward Jenner (1749-1823) took his sample of cowpox in order to vaccinate people against smallpox. “G C Jenner” was George Charles Jenner, Edward’s nephew. Perhaps this horn became a family heirloom before it came to the museum?

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Glossary: vaccination

The introduction of vaccine into the body for the purpose of inducing immunity. Coined originally to apply to the injection of smallpox vaccine, the term has come to mean any immunising procedure in which vaccine is injected.

Glossary: horn

A hard, projecting, and usually pointed organ, growing upon the heads of certain animals, especially. Of the ruminants, as cattle, goats, and the like. The hollow horns of the Ox family consist externally of true horn, and are never shed.

Glossary: cowpox

Viral infection of cows' udders, transmitted to humans by direct contact, causing very mild symptoms similar to smallpox.

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.