The Great Inoculator The Untold Story of Daniel Sutton and his Medical Revolution Gavin Weightman

Publication date:
11 Aug 2020
Yale University Press
208 pages: 210 x 140mm
16 b-w illus.
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This timely history of the neglected figure of Daniel Sutton—the medical revolutionary who paved the way for present-day vaccination—was named a best book of 2020 by BBC History Magazine

Smallpox was the scourge of the eighteenth century: it showed no mercy, almost wiping out whole societies. Young and old, poor and royalty were equally at risk – unless they had survived a previous attack. Daniel Sutton, a young surgeon from Suffolk, used this knowledge to pioneer a simple and effective inoculation method to counter the disease. His technique paved the way for Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination – but, while Jenner is revered, Sutton has been vilified for not widely revealing his methods until later in life.

Gavin Weightman reclaims Sutton’s importance, showing how the clinician’s practical and observational discoveries advanced understanding of the nature of disease. Weightman explores Sutton’s personal and professional development, and the wider world of eighteenth-century health in which he practised inoculation. Sutton’s brilliant and exacting mind had a significant impact on medicine – the effects of which can still be seen today.

Gavin Weightman is a historian and former documentary filmmaker. He has written extensively on the history of science, and is the author of Eureka, The Frozen Water Trade, and The Industrial Revolutionaries.

“Adding a new angle…The Great Inoculator tells the forgotten story of Daniel Sutton, a lowly surgeon from Essex who became an inoculation entrepreneur.”—Kate Womersley, The Spectator

“Weightman relates [this story] with clarity and verve.”—Gareth Williams, BBC History Magazine ‘Best Books of 2020’

 ‘This engagingly written account shows the debt Jenner owed to Daniel Sutton, a young unqualified surgeon working in Ingatestone in Essex from the 1760s. Sutton’s practice of inoculation played a vital part in the acceptance of the procedure worldwide. This fascinating book throws light on the cut throat commercial world of eighteenth century medicine and surgery, and its connections with royalty, aristocracy and the lower orders.’— Virginia Berridge, author of Public Health