Vaccination Pure and Spurious
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Vaccination Pure and Spurious

Vaccination Pure and Spurious

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College of Physicians

19 South 22nd Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103

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About the Lecture

The Confederate southern states experienced several smallpox epidemics during the American Civil War, blaming the disease on the Union northern states. Confederate doctors responded by vaccinating soldiers but then discovered that some vaccinations were ineffective (“spurious”) and instead spread other diseases, particularly syphilis. Director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library, and William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine, Robert Hicks, PhD, shows how the Confederacy managed vaccinations and tried to solve the numerous spurious cases. His illustrated tale includes the deliberate infection if children on plantations as a source of vaccine, and allegations of vaccination poisoning in the conflict’s only war crimes trial.


About the Speaker

Robert D. Hicks, PhD is the 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 B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology and archaeology at the University of Arizona. He also served as a naval officer with the U.S. Naval Security Group.

Photo of Robert Hicks.



Photo Credit (top of page): Tardieu, Ambroise, 1788-1841, “Pustules : variole, varicelle, vaccine, vaccinelle,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library.



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College of Physicians

19 South 22nd Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103

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