EDWARD JENNER   1749 to 1823




Much has been written of EDWARD JENNER, the man whose lifetime will be remembered for his discovery of the vaccination that was to rid the world of the scourge of SMALLPOX. The spread of that dreaded disease throughout the land decimated the population, striking fear in its path. Jenner lived at Berkeley in South Gloucestershire in a large country house called The Chantry. In its grounds is the now legendary thatched hut where Jenner carried out many of his experiments. At the time Jenner was faced with much opposition, scepticism and ridicule on the highly suspected practice of vaccination.


Also in Berkeley lived WILLIAM FISHER SHRAPNELL, surgeon to the South Gloucestershire Militia. WILLIAM was a lifelong friend of Jenner who turned to him on many occasions for support in family as well as medical matters. Williams's son was HENRY JONES SHRAPNELL who also became a doctor practising with JENNER at Berkeley. He spent many of his formative years as the assistant of JENNER, becoming a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1814. It is noted that:

'young HENRY SHRAPNELL when not busy with his patients spent much of his time in his study (Jenner's), sorting and labelling specimens, trying to reduce to order what remained obstinately and interestingly disordered'.

Later on it was noted that HENRY SHRAPNELL had helped to arrange JENNER'S specimens in one of the rooms at The Chantry. JENNER died in 1823 after an 'apoplectic seizure with paralysis of the right side'. HENRY SHRAPNELL, now aged 31, was with him at this time, together with Henry Hicks, Jenner's one time apprentice. Jenner's will showed that the choicest of the specimens from his geological collection were left to Revd Robert Halifax and HENRY SHRAPNELL.


That same year (1823) HENRY SHRAPNELL had a paper published in the London Medical Gazette describing his own research into the anatomy of the human ear, part of which is known to this day as the 'Shrapnell Membrane'. HENRY was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1826. Another 11 years were to follow before HENRY died aged only 42 during which time he lived alternately in Berkeley, Gloucester and finally London.


It was in Gloucester in 1829 where he was to sadly spend time in the King's Bench Prison having been unable to pay his debts, an insolvent debtor. Times must have been hard in the latter days of his life after the high days following his runaway marriage to Maria Marklove at Gretna Green, then those with the Jenner family at The Chantry.


Odd to contrast the life of HENRY SHRAPNELL (1792-1834) profiled above with that of his contemporary HENRY SHRAPNEL 1761 - 1842 (The General) whose lives had opposite aims, saving of lives and that of destruction through war. Both were probably ignorant of each other's existence in spite of their common Wiltshire roots.