Onesimus: Smallpox Inoculation

smallpox

Thanks to the pioneering work of Onesimus, many lives were saved from the smallpox epidemic.

Onesimus (fl. 1706 – 1717), slave and medical pioneer, was born in the late seventeenth century, probably in West Africa, although the precise date and place of his birth are unknown. He first appears in the historical record in the diary of Cotton Mather, a prominent New England theologian and minister of Boston’s Old North Church. Reverend Mather notes in a diary entry for 13 December 1706 that members of his congregation purchased for him “a very likely Slave; a young Man who is a Negro of a promising aspect of temper” (Mather, vol. 1, 579). Mather named him Onesimus, after a biblical slave who escaped from his master, an early Christian named Philemon.

http://hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu/onesimus-fl-1706-1717-slave-and-medical-pioneer-was-born

The idea behind this radical new treatment came from Africa, specifically from a slave named Onesimus, who shared his knowledge with Cotton Mather, the town’s leading minister and his legal owner. Boston still suffered dreadfully, but thanks to Onesimus and Mather, the terror linked to smallpox began to recede after Africans rolled up their sleeves—literally—to show Boston how inoculation worked.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/10/17/how-african-slave-helped-boston-fight-smallpox/XFhsMMvTGCeV62YP0XhhZI/story.html

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/onesimus

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3491675?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

http://www.blackhistorypages.net/pages/onesimus.php

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