Lucy WardMar 25, 2022
The Empress and the English Doctor
How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus
Oneworld Publications 2022
Within living memory, smallpox was a dreaded disease. Over human history, it has killed untold millions. In the eighteenth century, as epidemics swept Europe, the first rumours emerged of effective treatment: a mysterious method called inoculation.
But a key problem remained: convincing people to accept the preventative remedy, the forerunner of vaccination. Arguments raged over risks and benefits, and public resistance ran high. As smallpox ravaged her empire and threatened her court, Catherine the Great took the momentous decision to summon the Quaker physician Thomas Dimsdale from Hertford to St Petersburg to carry out a secret mission that would transform both their lives. In The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus (ONEworld, 2022), Lucy Ward expertly unveils the extraordinary story of Enlightenment ideals, female leadership and the fight to promote science over superstition.
Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland.