Smallpox used to be humanity’s greatest enemy. During its 12,000 year reign of terror it was responsible, for hundreds of millions of deaths. In 18th century Europe, it was responsible for killing about 400,000 people per year.
But toward the end of the 1700s, we made a breakthrough. An English physician named Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids infected with cowpox — a similar but far less deadly disease — were seemingly immune to the smallpox virus. This gave him an idea. What if you we could intentionally infect someone with a milder disease in order to prevent them from getting something worse in the future? This idea, which we now refer to as inoculation, laid the foundations for what would later become the world’s fisrt vaccine: a radical invention that led to a complete eradication of smallpox by 1979, and has saved countless lives in the years since.
Today, the story of Edward Jenner stands as a powerful reminder that sometimes the best solutions are the crazy ones — the ones that are so wild, so seemingly outlandish, and so outside-the-box that they just might work. In this series, we explore a handful of these ideas — from lab-grown seafood to artificial photosynthesis — and take you on a tour of some of the most potentially groundbreaking concepts in the world of tech.
Published at Sat, 29 Feb 2020 01:12:19 +0000