Excellent show about vaccination, thanks Sawbones! The history of immunology is really amazing, and full of great stories. In fact, if it hadn't been for variolation, the United States might not have gained its independence in the Revolutionary War. George Washington made the all-important, and very controversial, decision to have the colonial army troops inoculated in January 1777, saying in his inoculation order that "we should have more to dread from [smallpox] than the sword of the enemy." Because of this decision, Washington had a healthy army that was able to persevere against the British until the surrender at Yorktown in 1781.
It's also worth noting that, while Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (who later became known as a "letter writer" because of the publication of The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
in 1861) introduced the Turkish method of variolation to Europe, the similar African method was being introduced in North America by African slaves who were brought to this continent against their will. Cotton Mather learned of the technique from slaves in the early 1700's, and in 1721 he convinced Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to try it out.
The National Library of Medicine has some great articles about immunization and efforts to eradicate disease through vaccination on their blog at http://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov
. See, for example, the Star Wars approach to immunization (Justin will enjoy this) at http://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2013/08/16/dont-hesitate-vaccinate/