Interesting If True

Interesting If True

Interesting If True - Episode 2 - How To Prevent A Plague

May 08, 2020

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that promises not to lie to you… on purpose… unless it’s funny…

I'm your host this week, Aaron, and with me are our panel.

I'm Steve, and did you know that for its sheer ability to calm the soul, it only takes about 7 cute otter videos to equal one beer, and otter videos are acceptable at work.

I’m Shea and this week I learned that before you go out into public, ask yourself: Is it worth it? Can I work it? Can I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it?

I'm Jenn and I learned this week that May 7th, when the patron cut of this episode drops, was the date Herman W. Mudgett was hanged in 1896 for crimes against humanity...and hospitality. You may know Herman better as the notorious American serial killer HH Holmes.

The news from the field of medicine and health care is all the rage right now, but we don’t wanna talk about Coronavirus. So I’m bringing a timely story from last year on the anniversary of a medical breakthrough.

Aaron’s got a story on medicine too.

Editors Note: When I say ‘DARPA’ at the start of the story, I definitely don’t mean ‘DARPA’, I meant the Bhopal Disaster. Because I’m bad with acronyms.

Jenn’s Pox Upon Your House

Today I have a story about EDUCATIONAL HISTORY (ree...ree...ree...ree)!!

It’s not particularly weird, but it’s time appropriate, both in an anniversary sense and it’s more current event-y than it ever should be.


Traveling back in time to May 14, 1796, in rural England, we see the incredibly influential scientist, Dr. Edward Jenner, introducing his most celebrated invention. And now since we live in the most backward of timelines it has become his most controversial. What was this history-altering, millions of lives saving, now somehow debated event? That was the day Dr. Jenner put into use his newly developed smallpox vaccine. Yep, in case you weren’t already aware Dr. Edward Jenner was the father of the innovation of medical vaccinations.

Please see his May pin-up for Sultry Georgian Era Scientists Monthly, complete with the accessory of cow illustration. (Cowpox features into the story, hold on.)

Full disclosure: despite being considered the father of immunology, he was not the first to suggest that exposure to lighter doses of the same or similar illnesses would confer at least some form of immunity. I’ll cover that soon.

Anyway, that’s right(!), I’m gonna talk about the history of vaccinations and exactly what they did for the progress of human society (spoiler alert: a lot more people survived).

First, we need to learn a bit about the disease that was the first to be inoculated against: the now naturally eradicated smallpox. I say now naturally eradicated bc first off that how’re awesome vaccinations are and secondly (and scarily) it’s considered an excellent potential bioterror weapon. (Just an FYI: in late 1975, Rahima Banu, a three-year-old girl from Bangladesh, was the last known person in the world to have naturally acquired smallpox, per the CDC. She did survive and an intensive vaccination campaign around her home prevented any others from becoming infected.)

Smallpox was a devastating disease for pretty much all of the known human history. It’s believed to have appeared sometime around 10,000 BC as humans in NE Africa were beginning the first agricultural communities. From ncbi.