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Ir the Romans considered that man worthy of a statue who by his exertions rescued a single citizen from the grave; what honours are too great for the memory of him, who, by the happiest discovery, and the most liberal communication of it to the public, has saved the lives of millions? Such is the service that has been rendered to mankind by our illustrious countryman, Edward Jenner: and, though he did not receive those high distinctions to which his merits had a fair claim, his name is ennobled by the admiration of the world, and it will be held in reverence to the remotest ages.
Dr. Jenner was born May 17th, 1749, at Berkeley in Gloucestershire. He was the youngest son of the Reverend Stephen Jenner, A.M., of the University of Oxford, Rector of Rockhampton, and Vicar of Berkeley. Independent of church preferment his father was possessed of considerable landed property. Dr. Jenner's mother was the daughter of the Reverend Henry Kead, of an ancient and respectable family in Berkshire, who also once held the living of Berkeley, and was at the same time a Prebendary of Bristol.
The family of Jenner, which is of ancient standing in Gloucestershire and the adjacent county of Worcester, has produced several men of eminence; among whom was Dr. Thomas Jenner, the immediate predecessor of the pious Dr. George Horne, in the Presidentship of Magdalen College, Oxford. Dr. Jenner's father had been tutor to the old Earl
of Berkeley; who gave him the valuable vicarage which he held till his death: and the whole of that noble house, particularly the late lord, and his brother the admiral, ever retained the warmest attachment to him and his family.
Dr. Jenner had the misfortune to lose his father at a very early period of life; but this loss, which too frequently prevents the proper cultivation of the mental faculties, was fortunately supplied by the affectionate and well-directed attention of his eldest brother, the Reverend Stephen Jenner, who brought him up with a tenderness truly parental. He had another brother, the Reverend Henry Jenner, many years domestic chaplain to the Earl of Aylesbury, and Vicar of Great Bedwin, Wilts; father of the Rev. George Jenner, and of Mr. Henry Jenner, surgeon of Berkeley, whose names so frequently appear in the history of Vaccine Inoculation.
When he was about eight years of age, he went to a school at Cirencester, where he remained only half a year. He was then consigned to the tuition of the Rev. — Clissold, at Wotton Underedge; by whom he was well grounded in classical knowledge. While here he became fond of natural history, and especially directed his attention to the dormouse, of the nests of which animal he made a large collection.
After leaving school, which was about the thirteenth year of his age, Dr. Jenner was placed under the care of the Messieurs Ludlow, then eminent practitioners at Sodbury, near Bristol; where he remained six years.
On the expiration of his articles, Dr. Jenner repaired to the metropolis, and became a pupil of St. George's Hospital, under the immediate care of the late John Hunter; with whom he lived two years as a house pupil, and with whom and for whom he laboured in the formation of that stupendous monument of anatomical and physiological industry, the Hunterian Museum. In liberal minds a congeniality of talent and pursuit lays the foundation of sincere and lasting friendship. The truth of this observation was fully exemplified by the intimacy which ever after subsisted between the celebrated preceptor and his no less celebrated pupil.
Such was the estimation in which Dr. Jenner's talents were at that time held by Mr. Hunter, that he offered him a partnership in his profession, which was very valuable. Mr. Hunter was desirous of extending his lectures on anatomy and surgery to subjects of natural history, and justly appreciating the abilities of his pupil Jenner, and the ardour and perseverance of his inquiries into those subjects, he was desirous of obtaining his co-operation. So attached, however, was Dr. Jenner to a country life, to his native place, and above all, to the excellent brother whom, from difference of years and the decease of his father, he regarded rather filially than fraternally, that he declined the flattering proposal.
When a second voyage of discovery to the South Seas was projected, Dr. Jenner, who had materially assisted Sir Joseph Banks in forming a scientific arrangement of the curiosities and natural productions which he had brought from that part of the world, was solicited, but in vain, to become one of the literary associates in that enterprize.
Soon after, another invitation of the most advantageous description was made to him on the part of the late Warren Hastings, Esq., to go out in a medical capacity to Bengal; but neither could this alluring prospect tempt him to leave the land of his fathers. So strong indeed was the influence of the patria et natale solum, that to the day of his death he could never endure to reside for any length of time at any great distance from the place of his birth.
After finishing his studies in London, therefore, Dr. Jenner settled at Berkeley; and soon obtained practice to a great extent. Among other occurrences which considerably extended his reputation as a skilful surgeon, was the complete success of a very difficult and delicate operation which he performed in the Gloucester Infirmary, on a person suffering under a strangulated hernia.
In his leisure hours Dr. Jenner laid the foundation at Berkeley of a Museum of Natural History and Comparative Anatomy, which attracted very general notice. Being fond of ornithology, he entered into some very curious investi
gations with respect to the habits of the cuckoo. The economy of that singular bird had never been accurately ascertained, even by those inquisitive aud diligent naturalists, Willoughby and Ray, who may be said to have made the study of animal life, in all its varieties, their undivided object. The result of Dr. Jenner's inquiries was printed in the Philosophical Transactions for 1788, and copied thence into various periodical journals, English and foreign. As this paper is extremely curious and interesting, an abstract of it may be agreeable to the reader.
The author observes, that during the time the hedge-sparrow is laying her eggs, the cuckoo contrives to deposit her single one among the number, and there leaves it to the care of the owner of the nest. This intrusion often occasions some discomposure; for the old sparrow, while sitting, not only throws out some of her own eggs, but sometimes injures those which remain, in such a way, that they become addle, so that it frequently happens that not more than two or three of the parent bird's are hatched; but what is very remarkable, it has never been known that the sparrow has either thrown out or injured the egg of the cuckoo. of the cuckoo. When the When the sparrow has sat her usual time, and disengaged the young cuckoo, as well as her own offspring, from the shell, her young ones, and any of the eggs that remain unhatched, are soon turned out; the young intruder remaining in full possession of the nest, and becoming the sole object of the future care of the foster parent. The young birds are not previously killed, nor the eggs demolished, but they are left to perish together, either in the bush which contains the nest, or lying on the ground underneath. This seemingly unnatural circumstance struck Dr. Jenner very forcibly, and induced him to make it the particular point of investigation.
On the 18th of June, 1787, he examined the nest of a hedge-sparrow, which then contained a cuckoo's and three native eggs. On inspecting it the following day, the bird had hatched; but the nest then contained only a young cuckoo, and one hedge-sparrow. The nest was placed so
near the extremity of a hedge that Dr. Jenner could distinctly see what was going forward in it; and, to his great astonishment, he perceived the young cuckoo, though so lately hatched, employed in the very act of turning out its companion. The mode of accomplishing this was very extraordinary: the little animal, with the assistance of its rump and wings, contrived to get the bird upon its back, and making a lodgment for its burden by elevating its elbows, clambered backwards with it up the side of the nest, till it reached the top, where, resting for a moment, it threw off its load with a jerk, and quite disengaged it from the nest. After remaining a short time in this situation, and feeling about with the extremities of its wings, as if to be convinced that the business was properly executed, it dropped into the nest again. Dr. Jenner made several experiments of a similar kind in different nests, by repeatedly putting in an egg to the young cuckoo, which the bird always disposed of in the same manner. is very remarkable that nature seems to have provided for the singular disposition of the cuckoo in its formation at this period of its early life; for, different from other newly hatched birds, its back, all along between the scapula and the rump, is very broad, with a considerable depression in the middle, which appears as if intended for the purpose of giving a more secure lodgment to the young hedge-sparrow, or the egg, while the young cuckoo is engaged in removing either of them from the nest. When the animal is above twelve days old, this cavity is quite filled up, the back assumes the shape of that of nestling birds in general, and at that time the disposition for turning out its companion entirely ceases. The smallness of the cuckoo's egg, which in general is less than that of the sparrow, is another circumstance to be attended to in this surprising transaction, and seems to account for the parent cuckoo's depositing it in the nests of small birds only, for if she were to do this in the nest of one that produced a larger egg, and consequently a larger nestling, the design would probably be frustrated; the young cuckoo would be unequal