Monday, August 15, 2011


Blossom was a cow. But not just any cow. Blossom was the very cow which led English scientist Edward Jenner (1749-1823) to be dubbed "The Father of Immunology." Blossom gave cowpox to milkmaid Sarah Nelmes. Jenner used pus from her sores to inoculate 8-year-old James Phipps against the more virulent smallpox virus. To Jenner's relief, the 1796 experiment proved to be a success when subsequent exposure to smallpox showed the boy to be immune.

Strangely enough, Blossom's relics seem to have proliferated like those of the True Cross. Her hide was given by Jenner's family to St. George's, London in 1857 and hangs on the wall of the library (photo here). But a hide also said to belong to Blossom is curated by the Gloucester Folk Museum. Blossom's horns are to be seen both on (photo here if you scroll down) and off her head (2nd and 3rd images, plus here) at St. George's. And another horn said to have belonged to Blossom is the pride of a trustee of the Edward Jenner Museum in Berkeley, UK. Not in question is Dr. Jenner's diligence in developing the smallpox vaccine. As he wrote: "I am at least 6 hours daily, with my pen bending over writing paper, till I am grown crooked as a cow's horn."

The 1st and 4th images above were taken by Yusef Ozkizil in Feb. 2010 when St. George's did a chemical analysis of Blossom's hide to assess it for restoration. The 2nd and 3rd images above were taken by Professor Robert Siegel of the Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, whose research interests include viruses, infectious diseases, and "all things poxy."

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