• Margaret DeLacy


The conclusion points out that although many British authors before 1730 entertained ideas about contagion, it remained an unorthodox idea with roots in a suspect Helmontian philosophy. The infrastructure necessary to investigate, sustain, and institutionalize contagionism, or to deploy it systematically as an aid in conceptualizing, classifying, and investigating acute diseases, did not exist. Only after the rise of Scottish medical education at midcentury would a research community possess the numbers, status, intellectual background, and geographic reach to adopt contagionism as a shared ideology.


Epidemic Disease Spontaneous Generation Natural Philosopher Smallpox Inoculation Early Eighteenth Century 
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  1. 1.
    Charles-Edward Amory Winslow, The Conquest of Epidemic Disease: A Chapter in the History of Ideas (Madison: 1980), 159–61. Catherine Wilson pondered the decline of interest in contagium vivum in The Invisible World (Princeton: 1995), 172–5, concluding that it resulted from the very ubiquity of microorganisms, improved microscopes that failed to show the entities previously blamed for illness, and resistance to the idea that God created venomous parasites.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A. E. Gunther, The Founders of Science at the British Museum, 1753–1900 (Hales-worth, Sussex: 1980).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Peter Razzell, The Conquest of Smallpox (Firle, Sussex: 1977), 40–2, Donald Hopkins, Princes and Peasants: Smallpox in History (Chicago: 1983), 58. See also Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain (Cambridge: 1894), vol. 2, 504.Google Scholar

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© Margaret DeLacy 2016

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  • Margaret DeLacy

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