Article ID: CBB001201293

Vaccination-Induced Syphilis and the Hübner Malpractice Litigation (2012)


This article examines smallpox vaccination in the 19th century as background for a notorious medical malpractice case that occupied Bavarian courts from April 1853 until May 1854. Dr. Georg Hübner, the defendant, was accused of having initiated a small epidemic of syphilis by using the lymph of a syphilitic infant to vaccinate 13 infants. The litigation and its published contemporaneous discussion demonstrate conflicts in the understanding of syphilis, the hazards of having to make a purely clinical diagnosis, the effect of obsolete legal wording in medical litigation, and the attitude of leading physicians to a guilty colleague. This case ultimately led to efforts to make arm-to-arm smallpox vaccination safer, and by 1898 to abandon the technique in favor of bovine sources that were sterilized and stabilized by various methods. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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Authors & Contributors
Tognotti, Eugenia
Barnes, Diana
Jannetta, Ann Bowman
Levene, Alysa
Mauger, Alice
Poliak, Daniel B.
Medical History
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Feminist Studies
Journal of Literature and Science
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Medicina Historica
Franco Angeli
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Irish Academic Press
McGill-Queen's University Press
Stanford University Press
University of Massachusetts Press
Medicine and culture
Vaccines; vaccination
Public health
Jenner, Edward
Montagu, Mary Wortley, Lady
Aurelio Lui
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
17th century
20th century
15th century
United States
Great Britain
Paris (France)

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