J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Inoculation Lecture in Weymouth, 19 Nov.

On Wednesday, 19 November, the Abigail Adams Historical Society in Weymouth will present a program on “The History of Inoculation and Vaccination: The Experience of the Adams Family and the Modern Perspective.”

David Jones, M.D., Ph.D., the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, will provide a historical perspective on smallpox inoculation, highlighting the experiences of the Adams family.

John Adams’s mother was a Boylston, niece of the doctor who had done the first inoculations in Boston decades before, Zabdiel Boylston. His work as a lawyer riding the circuit exposed him to lots of people, especially in busy Massachusetts ports. So he underwent the treatment during Boston’s epidemic of 1764, shortly before his marriage.

Abigail Adams and the children didn’t risk the treatment (not nearly as safe as later-developed vaccination) until 1776, when there was another epidemic after the siege. Contrary to how H.B.O.’s John Adams miniseries showed the process, Abigail took her four children, her household servants, and some other relatives and neighbors into Boston. Like John, she underwent inoculation at a house temporarily turned into a hospital, not at home.

Dr. Jones will speak in the Snell Conference Room of South Shore Hospital, 55 Fogg Road in Weymouth, from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. This program is free and open to the public.

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