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Lady Mary Montagu's Smallpox Experiment

Naomi Alderman tells the story of how Lady Mary Montagu experimented on her own child in a quest to prove that smallpox inoculation works.

Naomi Alderman's Science Story reveals how Lady Mary Wortley Montagu experimented on her own child in a quest to prove that smallpox inoculation works. Born in 1689 in a position of some power and influence, Lady Mary travelled to Constantinople as the wife of the ambassador to Turkey and witnessed 'variolation parties'. Here 'a nut shell' of virus on a needle is put in an opened vein to infer immunity. Having lost her own brother to smallpox and survived with terrible scaring herself, Lady Mary knew first hand the dangers of the deadly disease. She became the first person to bring smallpox inoculation to the West. Medical historian Lindsey Fiztharris tells the remarkable story of how condemned prisoners are given the opportunity to escape execution under the orders of King George I if they are given the virus and survive.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London, and Naomi discuss some of today's counter intuitive treatments, such as faecal transplants.

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28 minutes