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Benjamin Franklin’s Son Died Because Franklin Delayed Having Him Inoculated

Benjamin Franklin is arguably one of the smartest, innovative and most accomplished people of all time. I could go on and on about all that he did, but that would have nothing to do about what I want to point out here.

His son Francis Folger died in 1736, 15 years after smallpox inoculations proved effective during a 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston. That same year Franklin criticized that method in his brother James’ newspaper, where he was an apprentice. In 1796 Edward Jenner created the world’s first vaccine and it was to combat smallpox. He derived the names vaccine and vaccination from variolae vaccinae, which denotes cowpox. Jenner’s vaccine was much more effective than the inoculations.

One of Franklin’s greatest regrets in his very active, imaginative and long life was not having his son inoculated, which was delayed due to a fever Franky had. Franklin wrote of his regret in his autobiography:

In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.
Benjamin Franklin

Following Franky’s death, Franklin espoused that inoculation was the safer way and became an outspoken supporter of inoculations.

Franklin’s other son, William, age six in 1736, presumably was inoculated and lived to age 83. However, he ended up living in London, having left the colonies in 1782 since he was a Loyalist supporting Britain and also engaging in terrorism against the revolutionaries.

For more information about Benjamin Franklin, you should read his autobiography or one of the many biographies about him.

If you have any tax, business, financial, leadership or management issues you want to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

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