Saturday, 31 August 2013

Favourite Album: 'Quadrophenia' by The Who

Third of a series of articles (originally published in the ‘Fight Club’ issue of Portsmouth Point magazine) exploring favourite music albums. Today, Tim Bustin explains why The Who's 'Quadrophenia' is his favourite album.

Often dubbed as the last great Who album, Quadrophenia is overly ambitious, incredibly complex yet utterly brilliant – a summarisation for the music of rock heavyweights The Who.

    In 1973, after creating such classic albums as Tommy, Live at Leeds and Who’s Next, there was intense pressure on Townshend to once again write something spectacular, to meet the ridiculously high expectations of The Who’s quality of music. That something was Quadrophenia: a rock opera (where the music tells a story), set in 1960’s England, where riots between rival gangs of Mods and Rockers caused violence and destruction; the main character of the story being a teenage Mod named Jimmy, who is torn between fashion and depression, different emotions of love and anger, following “a way of life” and rage at that life’s let downs.

    Quadrophenia returns The Who to its Mod roots and gives insight on 1960’s culture (the film version of the album shows this better) but as a piece of music it represents the conflicting emotions and struggles of Jimmy, as a varied and emotional work of genius. The album is essentially his story and feelings.

    There’s a staggering 17 songs, which are often constructed around four leitmotifs - the themes of Quadrophenia: Jimmy’s differing personalities of romantic, maniac, tough guy and depressed – hence he is Quadrophenic. These are represented musically and allow each song to take its own mood swing and hence make the album exciting and constantly developing.

    The Real Me, being the first track on the album, sets the scene for the story and music. It truly shows what The Who are capable of – John Entwistle plays the part of lead guitar on his bass to the background of Keith Moon’s hell-bent drumming, as Roger Daltery screams the pain of Jimmy. Townshend refrains his electric guitar to a backing instrument but makes it fit in with Moon’s endless drum rolls. Horns blare in the background as the song blends into the intro of the next – the title track, a six minute instrumental between drums, synthesiser, background noises, piano, brass, strings and every guitar imaginable, all playing interweaving themes of stupefying complexity. 

Favourite Album: Sounds of a Playground Fading by In Flames

Second in a series of articles (originally published in the ‘Fight Club’ issue of Portsmouth Point magazine) exploring favourite music albums. Today, Fraser McKenzie explains why In Flames' 'Sounds of a Playground Fading' is his favourite album.

There is a reason why these Swedish pioneers of melodic death metal have continued to captivate, delight and infuriate for nearly two decades while entire battalions of copycat bands have come and gone with little impact: Their constantly evolving vision is one of progression. Therefore, it is no wonder that the metal world routinely awaits their impending new releases with a shivery mix of giddy anticipation and nervous apprehension.

    Whether it was the grungy, melodic riffs of The Jester Race or the electronics-laden ear-candy of Your Escape, In Flames have always managed to deliver quality music and it is safe to say that nothing much has changed for album number ten for the Gothenburg quintet, Sounds of a Playground Fading.

    The more hardcore amongst the metal-head population will be glad to hear that the band continue to maintain their thrash-metal-esque reputation but that’s not to say that you have to be a seasoned head-banger to enjoy this album. As they always have, the band experiment with electronic synth to deepen the texture of their pieces and the resultant melodic conglomerate gives the perfect combination of old and new. Classic tracks such as Ropes explore these traits to the fullest extent and the result left me wanting to keep listening, but feeling anxious about what’s to follow.

    The opening track Sounds of a Playground Fading contains everything that a current fan would expect from the band. The unmatched combination of deep, powerful drum-lines with melodic yet somewhat crunchy guitar riffs ensures that the band has stayed true to its death-metal roots, whilst pioneering the genre further still. The mellow vocals of front-man, Anders Fridén, provide the perfect accompaniment to this epic Scandinavian ensemble.

Friday, 30 August 2013

'Blackberry-Picking' by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, poet (13 April, 1939 to 30 August, 2013)


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Photograph: On Milton Common II

by Laura Burden

A cinnabar moth caterpillar exploring ragwort on Milton Common, August 2013. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Favourite Album: The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony

The first of a series of articles (originally published in the ‘Fight Club’ issue of Portsmouth Point magazine) exploring favourite music albums. Today, George Neame explains why Tired Pony’s ‘The Place We Ran From’ is his favourite album.

 Tired Pony is the brainchild of Gary Lightbody, frontman of the more well-known alternative rock band Snow Patrol. The idea of a ‘country-tinged supergroup’ came to him in a bar in Ireland many years ago, but it was only in 2010 that this became reality. Enlisting members from bands such as R.E.M and Belle and Sebastian, The Place We Ran From was recorded in less than a week and peaked at number 17 in the UK Albums Chart.

Opener ‘Northwestern Skies’ begins with a subtle, echoing guitar strum, before becoming overlain with a slow drum beat and piercing acoustic twangs, giving it an instant sense of nostalgia and simplicity, one that screams ‘Americana’ and sounds somewhat foreign but somewhat familiar. The tune is throbbing, pulsating, and instantly lulls the listener into a state of calmness and serenity. Even the lyrics (‘There’s no answers in the tempest, just a million other questions, so just let it take you over, so that we can learn our lesson’) seem to be saying ‘take a seat, watch the world go by; what will be will be’. ‘Get on the Road’ follows, recruiting female American vocalist and actor Zooey Deschanel to sing the lyrics in unison with Lightbody, an exquisite and harmonious effect that amplifies the passion of the song.

‘Point Me at Lost Islands’ and single ‘Dead American Writers’ are shorter, snappier and more upbeat tunes that transform the album from a tranquil love letter to a euphonic blast of hi-hats, rhythmic guitar strums and piano riffs. Here the group show their incredible versatility, with songs that make you want to tap your feet, dance along and sing out loud. One of the most touching and poignant songs on the album, ‘Held in the Arms of Your Words’, follows an incredibly basic chord pattern, but clearly simple is sometimes best. There is little to it apart from an acoustic guitar and crooning vocals, yet this again creates a soothing, peaceful atmosphere that cumulates with the swinging, swaying repetition of the chorus. There is, at times, a sense that it will never end, accompanied by the hope that it won’t.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Simultaneous Chess: Mr Puchades v. Five Pupils

Richard Puchades 

On the Tuesday on the last week of the Summer term I played the 5 best PGS chess players in a simultaneous match organised by Luke Ronaldson. All of the games were hard fought but, in the end, experience triumphed over youth and I won 5-0.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Photography: On Milton Common

by Laura Burden

An ant eyeing a ladybird inquisitively on some ragwort. Photograph taken on Milton Common. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Fourth Test: Analysis

by Tim MacBain

Wow. Wasn’t expecting that.

What a Test! It had everything, controversy, sublime batting, insane bowling, and probably one of the most wonderful moments for one man, so richly deserved. How can the Oval live up to this?

I’ll start with him. Chris Rogers. The poor bloke had about five years between his debut in 2008 and next Test, the first of this series. Eternally behind Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden until their retirements, and overlooked in preference to the likes of Shane Watson and Philip Hughes until this series, many thought he would become just another One Test Wonder. Therefore, the century he scored here, his maiden Test century for his country, was fantastic, and wonderful to see. Hats off to him, for having the tenacity to stay within reach of the national team and averaging 43 against a pretty powerful English bowling line up. He and David Warner may well form a well-rounded and interesting opening partnership.

Staying along the vein of batting, we come to Ian Bell. May the cricket gods be praised for his form and panache, his effortless ability this series to really step up to the mark when the top order failed (again). His century was majestic and very timely. At the other end of the spectrum, what is Jonny Bairstow still doing in the team? He’s averaged 29 this series, with only one fifty, when his country has direly needed him. His repeated failures are disappointing, and he should, quite frankly, be dropped. Joe Root isn’t doing too well up the order either; I suggest dropping Bairstow, moving Root down to 6, and playing Compton. It just isn’t fair to ask Root to open when he wants to but evidently isn’t ready.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Sixth Form Centre: Ground Level

by Tony Hicks

Final images of the demolition of the Sixth Form Centre, which is now at ground level.

Images from the final week:

Saturday, 10 August 2013

'Porphyria's Lover': An Aestheticist Reading

Ben Schofield offers an Aestheticist reading of Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover'. This article was originally published in the 'Fight Club' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in July 2013.

‘Porphyria’s Lover’ tells a tale out of the ordinary, the story of a murder and an exploration of insanity. As an earlier title of the piece, ‘Madhouse Cells’, indicates, the narrator is insane, yet in the narrative of the poem he goes undescribed, in fact we can only assume the narrator’s gender as Browning leaves us not even a stray pronoun as a clue. However due to the form of dramatic monologue, we learn far more about the inner mind of the narrator through his description than we would otherwise.

The poem begins with a succession of images of the storm raging outside the Lovers’ retreat, each seemingly unfit for a storm. How can wind be “sullen”, tearing down elm-tops “for spite”? As well as evoking a fitful storm the images reflect the nature of the narrator, his own “cheerless” mental state. Porphyria herself, the centre of the poem, is initially described in a manner as “soiled” as her gloves; she “glide[s]” into the poem at once carrying the storm in with her and shutting it out.

Friday, 9 August 2013

'Porphyria's Lover': A Structuralist Reading

Gregory Walton-Green offers a Structuralist reading of Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover'. This article was originally published in the 'Fight Club' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in July 2013.

The key element to appreciating Porphyria’s lover is in understanding how Browning repeatedly subverts our expectations. In the first nine lines, we are offered a scene that could come just as easily from the Romantic poetry of the earlier 19th Century; the immensely impressive might of nature at its most ferocious is juxtaposed with the doting girl who makes the rural cottage comfortable and warm for the narrator. From this we might expect something along the lines of Coleridges’s “Frost at Midnight”, another poem set in a cottage, with a fire burning, but this one goes on to reflect at length on the power of nature, a common theme in Romantic poetry. Instead of these musings, Browning plunges us into a description of a woman being overtly sexual, undressing in front of her lover and taking the lead in their relationship. This sort of open display of sexuality had been absent from poetry since the Renaissance, and so is entirely unexpected in a poem that starts off in a Romantic vein.

If Browning were to continue to develop along this plot-line, he might have taken a similar route as Renaissance poet Sir Thomas Wyatt in his poem “They flee from me”. In it, we are offered a description of female dominance also seen in Porphyria: the title characters are described as “seek[ing]” the narrator with “naked feet”, and one woman is said to have “caught me [the narrator] in her arms” after her “loose gown” had fallen from her shoulders. The parallels with Porphyria are self-evident. However, from line twenty-two, Browning moves away somewhat from suggestive imagery, and instead focuses onto Porphyria’s innermost emotions, almost reminiscent of his contemporary Tennyson. Godiva, in relation to her internal struggle between “proper” behaviour and her obligations, and Mariana, in her unfulfilled desire for her absent lover, surrounded by a depressing, decaying landscape, both share some similarities with Porphyria.

Just as we are starting to identify with Porphyria, Browning immediately turns our view instead onto her lover, the narrator, instead. The romantic imagery of his “heart swell[ing]”, means that we expect what he was “to do” to be something sexual in nature, to release the tension built up in the earlier seductive depiction of Porphyria undressing. Yet once again, Browning has deceived us as to where the poem is leading. He releases the tension not by a sexual encounter, but by murder. This plot twist is central to the poem, highlighting Browning’s skill at structuring his work, but remaining in keeping with the poem as a whole. For instance, he continues to describe the actions after the death in terms of the language of desire, albeit having perverted such language to depict a selfish need for control rather than love. Furthermore, the macabre ending leads us to see the Gothic suggestions in the introductory lines when the narrator is describing the tempestuous weather.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

'Porphyria's Lover': A Historicist Reading

Tom Harper offers a Historicist reading of Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover'. This article was originally published in the 'Fight Club' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in July 2013.

Browning’s work with the dramatic monologue form stems from numerous accusations of ‘perversity’ from contemporaries on account of the disturbing characters he invents in his poetry, and hence the form was utilised as a means of distancing himself from his more sinister speakers. However, where the historical reading in this piece lies is in the fact that such accusations were based on many readers feeling the need to sympathise with such vulgar characters, as many of the themes highlighted in the poem (not including spontaneous murder) were indeed typical of the Victorian context in which this narrative was created.

In the article ‘Men of Blood’ author Carter J. Wood acknowledges that analyses of Victorian violence necessitate an understanding of that period’s “constructions of dutiful femininity that excused men’s ‘disciplinary’ violence ... or even actively supported male household dominance”, as Victorian gender ideology held women in a passive, loyal and submissive role with men having the authority to keep them in such a category. When analysing the poem more closely various references can be found as evidence towards Porphyria’s potential infidelity and hence a violation of the Victorian mindset: whether it be the “gay feast” bringing implications of a lust-driven evening out or the more subtle word “fall” perhaps making a reference to the Victorian “fallen woman” and hence prostitute. Thus one might take the view that in killing Porphyria the narrator is executing justice upon her in accordance with the time period, as female sexual promiscuity was heavily condemned by such a culture.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ashes: Third Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Rain dampens Australia's hopes
England retained the Ashes as the third Test ended in a draw with the home side now having an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.  The third Test at a new look Old Trafford stadium was cut short by some typical British weather as it poured down on the final day causing the match to end in a draw.  After having won the first two games, the momentum was with England who were looking forward to a whitewash.  On the other hand, Australia had to improve their performance drastically if they had to give themselves any chance of coming back into the series and they did not disappoint, putting together a good performance with both bat and ball to put England under pressure but fell prey to the weather.

Amidst talks of playing two spinners or bringing in Chris Tremlett into the attack, England fielded an unchanged side whereas Australia made a few changes. Nathan Lyon replaced fellow spin bowler Ashton Agar, Ryan Harris came in for the injured James Pattinson, and David Warner made his comeback into the Australian side at the expense of Phil Hughes. The visitors won the toss and chose to bat and scored over 500 runs for the first time this series with captain Michael Clarke leading the way with a massive individual score of 187 runs and with some useful contributions from Rogers, Smith and Haddin.  Graeme Swann was once again on the money for England as he picked up 5 of the 7 Australian wickets that fell.  England came in to bat and struggled early on with wickets falling but then Kevin Pietersen, who was doubtful for this game with fitness issues, chose the perfect moment to regain his form and struck a century which took England to 368. His innings had the usual swagger of any Pietersen innings, aggression mixed with patience, which was exactly what England needed at that time. Useful knocks from the lower order meant that England avoided the follow-on and Australia would have to bat again.

Celebrations all round

Australia came out in the second innings and made their intentions clear early on, sending Warner out to open the batting, and they scored freely to extend their first innings lead. In the quest for quick runs, they lost wickets at regular intervals but that was a risk they were ready to take as they had no intention of batting for a long time and wanted to put England in as early as possible. On the final day of what had been an exciting Test match, all three results were possible with England needing 332 runs to win and Australia needing 10 wickets.  As the commentators said, Australia needed 10 good deliveries out of a possible 588 and England only needed to score at around 3.8 runs an over which in modern day cricket is not a very daunting task.  Australia started the day well, getting 3 early wickets in the first session, but to England’s relief, that was all they could manage as the rain came pouring down which meant that no more cricket was possible and the match was drawn.  There were mixed reactions all around, some were unhappy that an exciting day of cricket was cut short by the rain, but on the other hand, England had managed to retain the Ashes as they could no longer lose the series from here on.

'Porphyria's Lover': A Feminist Reading

Josh Rampton offers a Feminist reading of Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover'. This article was originally published in the 'Fight Club' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in July 2013.

This poem is clearly a controversial one, in the eyes of contemporary Victorian audiences and even more so in the eyes of an audience of today, accustomed to relative equality. To be shocking and controversial may have been the aim of Robert Browning, who with his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning campaigned for liberal causes such as the rights of women. This poem could therefore have been aimed to satirise the stringency of the idea of perfect femininity, tied to husband and home, and the endemic domestic violence that was only just coming into public awareness.

From a feminist’s point of view, this poem could be seen to represent the indifference that men seem to show towards women exerting power and control to a degree, especially in a sexual sense, where this poem seems to infer the way men seem to find the reversal of dominance and passivity in this area erotic and even preferable. However, once women assert “too much power” men immediately take advantage of their testosterone fuelled brute force to restore women to their “rightful place”. This could be seen, to an extent, to reflect the discomfort that some men still feel towards women who are powerful or assert power or control.
This poem could be a reflection, satirical or non satirical, on the immensely popular contemporary work by Coventry Patmore ‘The Angel In The House’, becoming a household term to describe a woman who embodied the Victorian ideal of femininity, devoted to husband and family, that was epitomised by the Royal family (Queen Victoria and her devotion to Prince Albert) for the middle classes to emulate. A feminist may well see this as a nauseating reminder of the sickening and even pathetic devotion of women to their husbands that feminists still criticise some women for today.

Although those who retain a Victorian perspective on women might argue that Porphyria is some kind of loose woman or whore, a feminist or indeed a male inclined to respect the prerogatives of women over their own bodies and their sexual liberation would disagree. The way Porphyria “Made her smooth white shoulder bare” and made the lover’s “cheek lie there” is more of a sign of sexual independence and assertion than the vulgar, lewd acts of a “fallen woman” if one adopts this point of view.

The title of this poem “Porphyria’s Lover”  immediately satirises the convention that the woman would always be the possessed object however as it turns out it is the man who is passive, sitting waiting for her in a cottage and watching her action drive the narrative while he is inert. On one level this poem could be a reflection of the Pygmalion Myth, a male delusion that women can only be pure and truly feminine when they are an art object, under total control of men. Or simply, on a more disturbing level, the murder of Porphyria may just be simply a bid to regain control of a woman who has subverted the expectations and limitations of her sex as opposed to an attempt to attain some kind of warped perfection. The fact that the versification (the way the poem looks on the page) and the rhyme scheme remain unbroken even by the killing is a chilling suggestion that the lover is callous, cold and calculating.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Sixth Form Demolition: Fourth Day

by Tony Hicks

Photographs taken on the fourth day of the demolition of the PGS Sixth Form Centre.

Different Interpretations of 'Porphyria's Lover': Introduction

Fay Davies introduces a series of articles responding to Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover'. This series of articles was originally published in the 'Fight Club' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in July 2013.

When we think of the term ‘fight’, poetry interpretation might not immediately spring to mind. But I would like to propose that ‘Fight Club’ is not such a far cry from ‘Poetry Club’. An interpretation (or reading) of a text is, in some ways, an argument. You are telling people what you believe this text to mean. You are bringing your own philosophical, ideological, political and personal stance to the text; a stance that is to some extent unique. You are pitting yourself against other interpretations of this text, which may indeed contradict your own. In his 1976 article ‘Interpreting the Variorum’ the literary theorist Stanley Fish claims that we interpret texts as part of ‘interpretive communities’. This gives us a particular way of reading the text; a particular set of cultural assumptions. So, a group of different readings of a poem is really a clash between different ways of thinking.
These readings of ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ do indeed encompass different ways of thinking. Poetry is rooted firmly in historical context in Tom’s Historicist piece, but it has less prominence in Ben’s Aestheticist reading where he explores the conflicting images of the text. Josh brings a Feminist slant in his examination of power relations; such concerns are absent in Gregory’s Structuralist reading, in which he identifies allusions to other texts, genres and ideas. He argues that such allusions create expectations on the part of the reader, which Browning goes on to subvert. Note how Josh and Tom offer differing interpretations of the final line. Both attribute great importance to these last words, but their reasons are distinct.
Of course, meaning and significance is a vague area. Different interpretations will often overlap, drawing on similar ideas to shape meaning. But even when they collide head-on, both are correct. So perhaps the true difference between this exercise and the typical fight is that, in this case, there can be no winner.    

(see poem below):

Friday, 2 August 2013

Last Sunrise Over The Sixth Form Centre

by Tony Hicks

Battle of the Sciences: Physics

Third in a series of articles discussing which scientific discipline was responsible for the most significant scientific discovery. Today, Sampad Sengupta argues for Physics. 

When speaking of experiments in physics, most people nowadays would think of dark matter research and space exploration. However, I believe some of the most influential experiments in physics have been conducted over 300 years ago when all this technology was not available and the human brain was one’s greatest tool.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, born in February 1564 in Pisa, Italy. He conducted experiments on motion which paved the way for many physicists in later years, including Sir Isaac Newton who formulated the mathematical laws of motion and universal gravitation. In 1581, when Galileo was in the University of Pisa, he noticed a swinging chandelier, which air currents shifted about to swing in larger and smaller arcs. He used his pulse as a timer and noticed that the chandelier took about the same time to oscillate regardless of how far it swung. He went home and conducted the experiment using several pendulums and concluded that a simple pendulum was isochronous, which meant it swung the same amount of time independent of its amplitude. Later on however, Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch mathematician discovered that this was only approximately true.

Galileo is better known for his experiments on motion. Contrary to the ideas of Aristotle, who believed that heavy bodies possessed a substance called ‘gravity’ and light bodies possessed a substance called ‘levity’ which caused heavier bodies to fall faster to the ground than lighter objects, Galileo said that the rate of acceleration of a falling object was independent of its mass, provided the opposing forces due to friction and drag were minimised. He proved this when he was studying metal spheres of different masses rolling down a groove in an inclined plane. He wanted to measure the distance travelled by the ball as function of time after release.  He demonstrated that for a given angle, they all took the same time to reach the bottom of the plane. This was because they were accelerated by the component of the gravitational force acting along the slope, and being spheres, they had very little friction. Galileo could show that this experiment was equivalent to free fall, but slower and thus easier to observe. Using the inclined plane at small angles made timing much easier as all he was using to time the spheres was his own pulse.

Galileo also carried out a demonstration from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa for everyone to see. According to a biography by Galileo's pupil Vincenzo Viviani, in 1589 Galileo had dropped two balls of different masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that their time of descent was independent of their mass. Thus he discovered that objects fell at the same acceleration, proving his prediction to be true, while at the same time proving Aristotle's theory of gravity (which states that objects fall at speed relative to their mass) false. Galileo proposed that a falling body would fall with a uniform acceleration, as long as the resistance of the medium through which it was falling remained negligible, or in the limiting case of its falling through a vacuum. He derived the correct kinematical law for the distance travelled during a uniform acceleration starting from rest, stating that it would be proportional to the square of the time elapsed. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sixth Form Centre: More Demolition

by Tony Hicks

Battle of the Sciences: Biology

Second in a series of articles debating which scientific discipline is responsible for the most significant scientific discovery. Today, Justin Wilkinson argues for Biology. 

There are many biological experiments of considerable importance, from Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin through to Pasteur’s swan necked flasks, and the disproof of spontaneous generation. However, the experiment that has saved the most lives of any other experiment ever, and the topic of this article is the development of vaccination by Edward Jenner in 1796.

Over the course of 12000 years it is estimated that smallpox has claimed the lives of almost a billion people, terrorising families across the planet and through the ages. Consider that 400,000 people (twice the current population of Portsmouth) died in Europe every year due to small pox in the latter part of the18th century and that even in 1967; fifteen million people contracted the disease, of whom, 2 million died. The development of ideas around vaccination is thought to have begun in 16th Century China. The inoculation process as it was then, involved the exposure of the patient to an attenuated (weakened) form of the disease. In the case of small pox, instead of injecting the patient with the live form of the virus (which was 30% fatal) a less lethal strain was injected, which was only 1-2% fatal.

Edward Jenner performed a scientific experiment that today would have been morally unjustifiable, but proved his theory, and has gone on to be the principle of disease prevention today.

The experiment itself is surprisingly simple. It was a calculated risk on Jenner’s part – a man trying to save humanity from disease; he heard tell that milk maids did not contract small pox, if they had had cow pox before. On this evidence, he extracted pus from a pustule on a cow maid. On the 14th of May 1796 he took this pus and injected it into; in Jenner’s words “a healthy boy, about eight years old for the purpose of inoculation for the Cow Pox” called James Phipps, inoculating him with cowpox. He allowed the cowpox to set in and for Phipps to recover. Then on the 1st of July 1796 Jenner extracted a sample from a smallpox pustule and injected it into the same boy. James Phipps survived the first inoculation with smallpox and the 20 or so that followed the first.

This experiment led to the first “safe” method of disease prevention – the vaccination. In fact the word vaccination comes from the Latin “vacca” meaning cow named after the cowpox which Jenner used to create a preventative for small pox.