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1 March 2022 – 28 August 2022

The Introduction of Smallpox Inoculation in Basel in 1756

In the 18th century smallpox was an endemic disease that almost everybody had at some point. Those who did not die of it were often permanently impaired by it.

The 1720s saw England adopt the method of smallpox inoculation practised in the Ottoman Empire and propagated by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, which from there spread to the rest of Europe.

The method, also called «variolation,» was controversial and became a test case for decision-making based on reason. It was successful wherever people of rank and status led by example, which is what the Bernoulli brothers did in Basel. Johann II had some of his children inoculated and Daniel developed a mathematical method for modelling epidemics. The vitrine presents the introduction of smallpox inoculation in Basel as viewed by Johann III Bernoulli, who underwent the procedure aged 12 and afterwards gave a talk on the subject in Latin.

Cabinet exhibition in the
Barfüsserkirche/library showcase

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Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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