Smallpox Overview & Timeline

Excerpt from de la Condamine's book written in 1773 describing inoculations in Africa from "a time before memory."

1500s – Researchers document African smallpox inoculation around this time. Some researchers, such as French geographer La Condamine, believe this practice was here long before any of the few documented examples. 

A letter from Dartmouth student Ebenezer Hasteltine accounting his experience with smallpox, including inoculation, in Lebanon, NH, in 1777. 


1633 – First case of New England smallpox recorded in Plymouth, MA


1707 – Colonist Cotton Mather learns of inoculation from Onesimus, an enslaved person under his control. Mather processes to share this new information with Englishmen in America and England, and recruits Dr. Zabdiel Boyleston to help in this endeavor. 


1720s – Large smallpox outbreak in Boston, Massachusetts. Both Mather and Boyleston advocate for inoculation amongst a skeptical population who opposed inoculations for many reasons, some of which were based on religion, others based in racism. 


1777 – Smallpox outbreak occurred in the Upper Valley, and reached Dartmouth students, some of which had the privilege of getting inoculated in Lebanon, New Hampshire, around this time. 

A boy's hand post-vaccination with coxpox by Edward Jenner in 1796.


1796 – Edward Jenner is credited with crafting the modern vaccine from the vaccinia variant of the variola virus, which is cowpox. He observed the cowpox on the hand of a dairymaid named Sarah Nelmes, and recognized that these dairy maids were immune to the smallpox virus. 


Vaccination chart of Dr. John Redman Coxe in 1802.

1800s – Smallpox continued to be prevalent throughout North America, Europe, Africa, and by this point, all parts of the world. As the techniques of vaccination were improved into the late nineteenth century, death rates from the virus and from inoculation began to drop significantly. 


1952 – Eradication of smallpox declared in the United States.


1953 – Eradication of smallpox declared in Europe.


1977 – Eradication of smallpox declared in Africa after the last case of smallpox in the world was contracted here. 

2021 CDC map detailing smallpox eradication dates by the continent. 


1980 – Global smallpox eradication declared after a meeting of the World Health Assembly, and no cases of smallpox, that is, variola vaccinia, have been reported. 


2021 – This exhibit on smallpox was compiled by students at Dartmouth College, approximately 16 months into the coronavirus pandemic of the twenty-first century.

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