Lucy Ward – Portico Library, Manchester
The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HY, May 19, 2022 6:30 pm
Join Lucy Ward to hear about her new book on Catherine the Great, vaccination and smallpox – history with contemporary resonance!
Lucy Ward tells David Isaac the story of how Catherine II of Russia (the Great) summoned a physician from Hertford, Thomas Dimsdale, to inoculate herself and her son against smallpox, then promoted inoculation (the forerunner of vaccination) across her empire. Catherine and many others saw inoculation not only as a lifesaving procedure but as a symbol of the triumph of reason and scientific observation over superstition.
The empress’s inoculation took place in 1768, but the book tracks back to the arrival of inoculation in Britain some 50 years previously, thanks to another extraordinary woman, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and the beginnings of anti-inoculation sentiment (the term ‘anti-inoculators’ came into use 300 years ago this year). Lucy draws on the example set by yet another visionary woman, Princess Caroline of Ansbach (the Princess of Wales), in having her daughters inoculated and publicising their safe recovery, again 300 years ago this year.
Catherine and Thomas became close friends and maintained their friendship till the end of their lives, but were never lovers. Their relationship was remarkable: it was founded on mutual intellectual respect and trust.
Lucy Ward is a writer and journalist. Growing up near Manchester, she studied Early and Middle English at university, before training as a journalist with the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. Moving south, she covered education for the Independent before becoming a Lobby correspondent for the Guardian during Tony Blair’s premiership. Despite an attempt by Peter Mandelson to sack her, she spent over five years at Westminster, campaigning for greater female representation. Lucy lived in Moscow from 2010-2012. A chance meeting led her to a barely-known story combining eighteenth century Russian history, female political leadership and public understanding of science. That story is the subject of her first book.
David Isaac is a comedy writer and regular Coronation Street script writer based in Manchester. His sitcom ‘Lunch Monkeys’ was broadcast on BBC3 earlier this year; the second season of is currently running. He has also worked as a writer on BBC1 shows ‘Not Going Out’ (series 3 and 4), and ‘Life of Riley’(series 2 and 3), and BBC3 sketch show ‘Scallywagga’ (series 1).
This event is part of Feminist Book Fortnight.