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Curing and inoculating smallpox: The career of Simeon Worlock in Paris, Brittany and Saint-Domingue in the 1770s

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posted on 2023-05-19, 13:06 authored by Michael BennettMichael Bennett
Endemic in Paris and other cities, and epidemic in the countryside once or more a decade, smallpox was a major cause of death and disability in eighteenth-century France. This paper seeks to add to an understanding of the French experience of inoculation by examining the career of Simeon Worlock, who won celebrity through his success in curing and inoculating smallpox in Paris, Brittany and Saint-Domingue in the 1770s. All the studies of inoculation in the French-speaking world make mention of him, generally identifying him as Sutton’s father-in-law and one of the first English inoculators in France. There is some confusion and misapprehension, however, about the man, his background and connections, and the skills that brought him celebrity. A new focus on his career provides insights on smallpox therapy, the practicalities of inoculation, the role of the government and police, the operations of the medical market-place, the relationship of professional medicine and broader cultures of healing, and the role of the print media and the public sphere. It also presents some little used source material that offers new perspectives and engaging detail on the social and emotional lives of people living in the shadow of smallpox.


Publication title

French History and Civilization








School of Humanities


The George Rude Society

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright © 2017 by the George Rudé Society, all rights reserved. 2016 Seminar (Published 2017)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology

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