Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism

A short, pointed metal blade between two tortoise shell patterned covers.

Title: Lancet owned by Edward Jenner


Date: 1720-1800

Source: Science Museum, London

Copyright/Permissions: Lancet owned by Edward Jenner, England, 1720-1800. Credit: Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

References: Boylston, Arthur. “The Origins of Inoculation,” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 105, no. 7 (2012): 309-313; Schiebinger, Londa. Secret cures of slaves: people, plants, and medicine in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017. John Quier and Donald Monro. Letters and essays on the small-pox and inoculation, the measles, the dry belly-ache, the yellow and remitting and intermitting fevers of the West Indies. London: Printed for J. Murray and C. Elliot, 1778.

Location(s): London, England

Commentary: This short blade is called a lancet. This medical tool was used to inoculate subjects with a sample of viral material, a common but risky practice in the eighteenth century. British physician John Quier exceeded the limits of the safety of smallpox inoculation in his cruel experiments on enslaved people in Jamaica by inoculating at-risk patients including pregnant women, children, and patients suffering from other illnesses.

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