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The Empress and the English Doctor

How Catherine the Great defied a deadly virus

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

A killer disease … an all-powerful Empress … an extraordinary encounter … the astonishing true story.

No disease sparked as much dread in the eighteenth century as smallpox. It killed children all across Europe with ruthless efficiency and those lucky enough to survive were disfigured with the tell-tale pitted scars. But a method offered hope in preventing serious infection: inoculation, the practice of inserting smallpox pustules into an open wound. Those inoculated were protected from death.

Only one problem remained: convincing people to take the treatment. A pamphleteering war raged in Europe about the risks and benefits of inoculation, and public resistance ran high. Catherine the Great broke the deadlock by requesting that a young Essex doctor, Thomas Dimsdale, inoculate her. Lucy Ward expertly unveils how this extraordinary situation came about – and how it kickstarted a trend of inoculations all over Europe.

This is a fascinating history of Enlightenment ideals, political intrigue, and the human quest to cure disease.