June 10, 2020

VIRTUAL EVENT: Vaccination Pure and Spurious


Vaccination Pure and Spurious: The Confederate Vaccination Crisis of the Civil War

The coronavirus pandemic has stimulated public interest in the worst pandemic in history, the influenza of 1918. United States history, however, has been shaped by epidemics and pandemics since the nation was founded. During the most important national crisis, the Civil War (1861-65), the Confederate southern states experienced several smallpox epidemics, blaming the disease on the Union northern states. Confederate doctors responded by vaccinating soldiers but then discovered that some vaccinations were ineffective (“spurious”) and inadvertently spread other diseases, particularly syphilis.

In an illustrated presentation, former director of the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Robert D. Hicks, PhD, shows how the Confederacy managed smallpox with few reliable vaccine sources and tried to solve the numerous spurious cases. His illustrated tale includes the deliberate infection of children on plantations as a source of vaccine and allegations of vaccination poisoning in the conflict’s most famous war crimes trial.

There will be a Q&A following the presentation.

*Event link with instructions will be emailed after registration.

Suggested Readings:

About the Speaker: Robert D. Hicks, PhD

Robert D. Hicks, PhD, is the former Director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He also directs the F. C. Wood Institute and holds the William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine. Formerly, he supervised exhibits, collections, and educational outreach at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. He has worked with museum-based education and exhibits for over three decades, primarily as a consultant to historic sites and museums. This work led Robert to obtain a doctorate in maritime history from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. Concurrent with the museum consulting, Robert worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a senior program manager in criminal justice, providing managerial assistance throughout the state. Earlier, he performed criminal justice work in Arizona, and obtained BA and MA degrees in anthropology and archaeology at the University of Arizona. He also served as a naval officer with the U.S. Naval Security Group.

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