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In 1718, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) had her son variolated in Constantinople by Dr. Charles Maitland. Lady Montagu, whose husband was ambassador to Turkey, had been disfigured by smallpox around 1715. She had heard about variolation upon her arrival in Turkey, and was anxious that her six-year-old son, Edward, have the procedure. In 1717, she wrote to a friend:

“…I am going to tell you a thing that I am sure will make you wish yourself here. The small-pox, so fatal, and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation every autumn…. The old woman comes with a nut-shell full of the matter of the best sort of smallpox, and asks what veins you please to have opened…. She immediately rips open that you offer her with a large needle … and puts into the vein as much venom as can lie upon the head of her needle…. Every year thousands undergo this operation…. There is no example of any one that has died in it; and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of the experiment…. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind.”

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Diseases & Vaccines