ISSN: 2149-2247 | E-ISSN: 2149-2549
Vaccination of the Ethnic Greeks (Rums) Against Smallpox in the Ottoman Empire: Emmanuel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos as Precursors of Edward Jenner [Erciyes Med J]
Erciyes Med J. 2021; 43(1): 100-106 | DOI: 10.14744/etd.2020.82856

Vaccination of the Ethnic Greeks (Rums) Against Smallpox in the Ottoman Empire: Emmanuel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos as Precursors of Edward Jenner

Theodoros Kyrkoudis1, Gregory Tsoucalas1, Vasilios Thomaidis1, Ioannis Bakirtzis2, Eleni Nalbanti3, Alexandros Polychronidis4, Aliki Fiska1
1History of Medicine, Anatomy Department, School of Medicine, Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, Greece
2School of History and Ethnology, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece
3Medical English, School of Medicine, Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, Greece
4Department of General Surgery, School of Medicine, Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, Greece

This historical review examined the onset of the vaccination method during the Ottoman Empire. Inoculation was performed in the regions of Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace using folk medicine as a measure against the spread of smallpox/variola infection. Greek physicians Emmanuel Timonis (1669–1720) and Jacobus Pylarinos (1659–1718) as well as several other Ottoman scientists of the Greek or Turkish descent pioneered the use and dissemination of variolation and the development of vaccination before or concurrently with Edward Jenner (1749–1823). During the 19th century in the Adrianople (Edirne) region and much earlier in Constantinople (Ýstanbul), vaccination programs used to be implemented as evidenced by various certificates distributed at that time. Ottoman vaccination documents from the early 20th century and the letter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762), dated 1719, have been analyzed, which confirms the extensive use of the vaccination method. Smallpox was the first disease to have been treated with vaccination method. The difference between the Greek and Ottoman physicians and Edward Jenner lies in the fact that while the Greek and Ottoman physicians removed fluid from pustules of an infected person to perform inoculation, Edward Jenner removed fluid from pustules of infected cows, which is why Edward Jenner’s method was coined vaccination (derived from the Latin word “vacca” meaning “cow”). Further, Turkish physicians Mustafa Behçet Efendi (1774–1834) and Sanizade Mehmed Ataullah Efendi (1771–1826) recommended the variolation method. It thus appears that the Ottomans provided care to all ethnicities of their Empire. Vaccines were initially used against smallpox, but the immunization program was eventually extended to other diseases.

Keywords: Emmanuel Timonis, history of medicine, inoculation, Jacobus Pylarinos, Ottoman Empire, vaccination, variolation

Theodoros Kyrkoudis, Gregory Tsoucalas, Vasilios Thomaidis, Ioannis Bakirtzis, Eleni Nalbanti, Alexandros Polychronidis, Aliki Fiska. Vaccination of the Ethnic Greeks (Rums) Against Smallpox in the Ottoman Empire: Emmanuel Timonis and Jacobus Pylarinos as Precursors of Edward Jenner. Erciyes Med J. 2021; 43(1): 100-106

Corresponding Author: Gregory Tsoucalas, Greece
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