Tuesday

West African slave Onesimus taught America the science of vaccination (Video)

CC™ Historical Fact

In the 18th Century, Boston, which later became part of what is now called the United States of America experienced a deadly small pox epidemic.

The epidemic killed hundreds of people and there seemed to be no medical solution.

An African, known as Onesimus, who was shipped as a slave from Ghana, provided the therapy, by introducing the principle and procedure of inoculation.

According to what he taught his master, the inoculation worked by extracting the juice of small pox, from an infected person and then cutting the skin of an uninfected and putting a drop of the juice.

It worked.

Puritan minister Cotton Mather, who Onesimus told about this African therapy used this knowledge to advocate for inoculation in the population, a practice which eventually spread to other colonies.

According to Wikipedia, Mather's advocacy met resistance from those suspicious of African medicine.

Doctors, ministers, laymen, and Boston city officials argued that the practice of inoculating healthy individuals would spread the disease and that it was immoral to interfere with the working of divine providence.

Mather was also publicly ridiculed for relying on the testimony of a slave.

Nonetheless, a physician, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, carried out the method Onesimus had described, which involved sticking a needle into a pustule from an infected person's body and scraping the infected needle across a healthy person's skin.

Dr. Boylston first inoculated his 6-year-old son and two of his slaves.

A total of 280 individuals were inoculated during the 1721-22 Boston smallpox epidemic.

The population of 280 inoculated patients experienced only 6 deaths (approx. 2.2 percent), compared to 844 deaths among the 5,889 non-inoculated smallpox patients (approx. 14.3 percent

Boston and London in 1726 and 1722, respectively, performed trials on citizens and, on average, decreased the mortality rate from 17% to 2% of the infected population.

In a 2016 Boston Magazine survey, Onesimus was declared number 52 on a list of the "Best Bostonians of All Time".

Onesimus's name cropped up recently on MSNBC in this Twitter post shared by a certain Osaretin Victor Asemota:

As the world searches for a vaccine to curb Coronavirus and its accompanying COVID-19 disease, let the world remember that an African pioneered a solution for health crisis of this nature ahead of western medicine.