(p. A15) Dimsdale had been summoned by Catherine the Great to inoculate not only the empress herself but also her 13-year-old heir, the Grand Duke Paul.
. . .
As Lucy Ward dramatically relates in “The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus,” Catherine’s invitation was a high-stakes affair, a testament to Dimsdale’s writings on the methodology of smallpox inoculation and his reputation for solicitous care. His Quaker upbringing had encouraged a brand of outcome- rather than ego-led practice.
. . .
As devastating as smallpox was, for the empress herself and the grand duke who would succeed her to personally undergo inoculation was a risk to both patient and doctor. On the success side stood immunity from the disease, an almost holy example for Catherine’s people, and as-yet-untold riches for her nervous doctor. On the other side, not only the fact that all Russia would refuse the treatment if their “Little Mother” died, but also a disaster for Dimsdale and the son who had accompanied him. Geopolitics came into play too—if things went wrong, some would interpret it as a foreign assassination.
. . .
With a happy result for her and her less-robust son, Catherine sets about publicizing the success. Dimsdale receives the equivalent of more than $20 million and a barony. Bronze medals are cast of Catherine’s profile, reading “She herself set an example.” It helps that Catherine was competitive beyond reason: “we have inoculated more people in a month than were inoculated in Vienna in eight,” she wrote to Voltaire, determined to beat Empress Maria Theresa’s efforts.
For the full review, see:
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review was updated June 22, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Empress and the English Doctor’ Review: Inoculate Conception.”)
The book under review is:
Ward, Lucy. The Empress and the English Doctor: How Catherine the Great Defied a Deadly Virus. London, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2022.