Smallpox is History, Literally and Figuratively

vaccinating paintingOn May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization announced that smallpox has been eradicated worldwide.

That achievement was certified, based on intense verification activities in countries, by a commission of eminent scientists on December 9, 1979, and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly on May 8, 1980.  The first two sentences of the resolution read:

“Having considered the development and results of the global program on smallpox eradication initiated by WHO in 1958 and intensified since 1967…[d]eclares solemnly that the world and its peoples have won freedom from smallpox, which was a most devastating disease sweeping in epidemic form through many countries since earliest time, leaving death, blindness and disfigurement in its wake and which only a decade ago was rampant in Africa, Asia and South America.”

Caption: From an earlier period in the history of smallpox, Vaccinating the poor is the title of this 1873 color print from a wood engraving by Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1833-1905).  It originally appeared in Harper’s Weekly magazine, March 16, 1872. In this crowded room, men, women and children, black and white, observe a physician as he vaccinates the tattooed left arm of a burly young man.