Two anniversaries today, both marking the end of wars, one against people, the other against a virus

May 8, 2020 • 9:45 am

I missed this because I left out today’s anniversaries in the Hili dialogue. There are two big ones today, both pointed out by Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre in Britain. Dr. Fox quotes remembrances from two of her experts (h/t Steve Jones):

From Professor Geoffrey L Smith FRS, Head, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge

Today is VE-Day. [JAC: the 75th anniversary.] It is also the 40th anniversary of the WHO declaration of the eradication of smallpox, which in the 20th century alone killed an estimated 400 million people, many more people than in both world wars. Whilst in the midst of another viral pandemic, we should remember the magnificent role that WHO played in ridding the world of smallpox and the power of vaccination. WHO should be encouraged, supported and funded in its efforts to control and eliminate COVID-19.

Quoting Macaulay, History of England 5, 2468-70, (1914)

“Smallpox, the most terrible of all the ministers of death: The smallpox was always present, filling the churchyard with corpses, tormenting with constant fears all whom it had not yet stricken, leaving on those whose lives it spared the hideous traces of its power, turning the babe into a changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maidens objects of horror to the lover”

Edward Jenner predicted the global eradication of smallpox in 1801 when he said

“it now becomes too manifest to admit of controversy that the annihilation of the smallpox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, must be the final result of this practice”

Now let us do this to COVID-19.

JAC: Here’s what smallpox does even when it spares a life. This child will be irreparably scarred:

From Wikipedia: A child with smallpox in Bangladesh in 1973. The bumps filled with thick fluid and a depression or dimple in the center are characteristic.

And here’s the resolution: short, sweet, and succinct:

From Michael A. Skinner, PhD FRSB, Reader in Virology, Imperial College London

With attention focused on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic, an important anniversary may pass us by, with some relevance to our present situation.

On 8 May 1980, the 33rd  Assembly of the World Health Organisation officially endorsed the successful eradication of smallpox in October 1979.

Several points are noteworthy:

Smallpox (with a mortality rate of about 30%) killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone (three times the death toll of both World Wars), and 500 million in its final hundred years).

– Smallpox is believed (informed by virus genome sequence data)  to have “jumped” from an animal source millennia ago (there is good evidence it was present in ancient Egypt)

– No one can therefore seriously suggest that the variola virus that causes it arose from anything other than a natural source.

– Infections were controlled and reduced by vaccination; the disease was finally eradicated by a massive global campaign spearheaded by WHO.

– That campaign relied on rigorous and extensive field epidemiology, using a “track, trace and [ring] vaccinate” approach (with no rapid molecular diagnostics available at the time, diagnosis relied on recognition of the distinctive lesions and other symptoms)

– The final battlegrounds for the eradication were Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where the last natural case was identified.


WHO commemoration of the 40th anniversary of smallpox. 

Message below about celebratory press conference (including link) described on this page

And here’s a quiz for you. Another deadly viral disease, but in animals, has also been completely eliminated by a combination of monitoring and vaccination. This one was declared eliminated in 2011. Do you know the disease? Look here for the answer.



20 thoughts on “Two anniversaries today, both marking the end of wars, one against people, the other against a virus

  1. You would think that the eradication of Smallpox alone would be enough for antivax types to wise up.

    1. I once stood, stupefied, drink in hand at a dinner party when an anti-vaxxer claimed that the smallpox vaccine killed more people than it saved and anyway it was better sanitation that did it not vaccines. She was not joking.

      I have always regretted my inability for loud raucous laughter (I tend to giggle myself silly) as that would have be the best response. Instead i just walked away.

      1. This is another example of where zealotry spills over into lunacy. Religious zealotry is probably the most dangerous kind, but I suppose that is open to debate since there are so many competitors.

      2. I have lately been musing over the “better sanitation” gambit used (in the past, I hope) by anti-vaxxers. Did we all suddenly stop using soap this year? Have there been great piles of human excrement accumulating in the streets?. Dead animals turning deliquescent and the putrescent liquor of coursing in cataracts down the roadside gutters? “Big Media” have refused to show us.!

        1. “Have there been great piles of human excrement accumulating in the streets?”

          Yes, mostly waving “End the shutdown” placards.

          (Sorry ’bout that, couldn’t help myself…)


    2. Due to the delightful ingenuity of the human mind, we now have a new twist on that one. Even if vaccines do work, Bill Gates will put microchips in the vaccines and they ain’t gonna put no dang microchips in me so help me jeebers.

  2. I used to use a slide (not that one specifically) of that UN declaration in lectures. I could never read it all the way through (nor can I now) without crying.

  3. When you read how people obtained immunity back in colonial days it was something. Even Martha Washington went through it so she could leave Mt. Vernon and stay with George at various times during the revolution.

  4. I see that, after months of proclaiming that “many people say testing isn’t important,” Donald Trump has now come up with a comprehensive coronavirus testing plan … for himself, now that his “valet” has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Trump and Mike Pence will henceforth be administered tests daily.

    As for the rest of us plebes and proles and commoners — well, we’ve been conscripted as “warriors” in the cause of reviving the economy (and, perforce, Trump’s reelection chances), expected to take our chances on exposing ourselves to the virus in the interest of fostering herd immunity.

  5. बहुत भयानक अनुभव मेरे साथ भी हुआ है बचपन में मुझे और मेरे सभी भाई बहनो को स्माल पाकस हो चुका है अब तो यह बीमारी संसार से गायब हो चुकी है

    On Fri, May 8, 2020, 8:18 PM Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “I missed this because I left out today’s > anniversaries in the Hili dialogue. There are two big ones today, both > pointed out by Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre in Britain. > Dr. Fox quotes remembrances from two of her experts (h/t Steve Jones” >

  6. For the most part, vaccinations weren’t available for my parents generation. Mom’s sister died of Measles in the th grade and her brother had such a high fever with Measles that his brain was damaged.

    Wish I could remember the vaccination situation from my childhood years (1941+) but don’t recall them being readily available. Maybe due to the war focus. And, I did have some childhood diseases such as Measles, Mumps, and Chickenpox. I had Chickenpox that kept me home from my first week of high school. Always felt like an alien thereafter.

    By the time my kids were born, we lived in a metropolitan area where vaccination was readily available for children, so I made certain mine were vaccinated. I am so grateful they had that privileged opportunity to avoid the deadly diseases of the past.

  7. Reading a little history, we often notice how many children of famous individuals (e.g., Lincoln, Darwin, Mahler, Dvorak) died early of diseases that are now mostly a thing of the past. Contemporary culture—notably among the fashionable post-modernists and the anti-vaxxer cultists—is blithely ignorant that about 40$ of children died before reaching adulthood throughout human history, until just a few generations ago. The recent change is due to vaccination, antibiotics, sterile technique, and modern civil engineering—practices of heteropatriarchal, colonialist, eurocentric Scientism.

  8. President Jefferson To Dr. Edward Jenner Mon May 14, 1806
    — I have received a copy of the evidence at large respecting the discovery of the vaccine inoculation which you have been pleased to send me, and for which I return you my thanks. Having been among the early converts, in this part of the globe, to its efficiency, I took an early part in recommending it to my countrymen. I avail myself of this occasion of rendering you a portion of the tribute of gratitude due to you from the whole human family. Medicine has never before produced any single improvement of such utility. Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood was a beautiful addition to our knowledge of the animal economy, but on a review of the practice of medicine before and since that epoch, I do not see any great amelioration which has been derived from that discovery. You have erased from the calendar of human afflictions one of its greatest. Yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived. Future nations will know by history only that the loathsome small-pox has existed and by you has been extirpated.

    Accept my fervent wishes for your health and happiness and assurances of the greatest respect and consideration.

  9. Smallpox was fake news. That’s obviously a picture of a crisis actor. That’s how big pharma gets you to submit to vaccines and control you through autism.

    [Taking off the tinfoil hat]

    It was a good thing that there was no internet back then. Sometimes i think it will be the downfall of civilization.

  10. Today’s WHO is not the WHO of 40 years ago. One can be grateful for what they helped to accomplish then while refusing to support the politicized incompetents who are there now.

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