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Lucy Ward – Pushkin House

Pushkin House, 5a Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2TA, May 12, 2022 7:00 pm

Book tickets

Join Pushkin House for a discussion with Lucy Ward about her new book The Empress and the English Doctor, charting Catherine the Great’s attempts to bring a new science, inoculation, to Russia with the help of Quaker physician Thomas Dimsdale. A timely tale of science, a deadly virus, and the struggle between fear and innovation.

No disease sparked as much dread in the eighteenth century as smallpox. The virus killed millions across the globe, carrying off one in every five victims and disfiguring survivors with tell-tale pitted scars. But a mysterious method offered hope: inoculation – the forerunner to vaccination.

Only one problem remained: convincing people to accept the treatment. Arguments raged in Europe over its risks and benefits, and public resistance ran high. In Russia, Catherine the Great took a momentous decision: to undergo inoculation herself, with her son, to set an example in her empire and beyond. In 1768, she summoned the Quaker physician Thomas Dimsdale to St Petersburg to carry out the secret mission that would transform both their lives. Drawing on first-hand accounts, journalist Lucy Ward expertly unveils an extraordinary story of Enlightenment ideals, female leadership and the fight to promote science over superstition.

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