The introduction of the vaccine in Spain

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Supplied Title:

The introduction of the vaccine in Spain

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Date of formation:

1800  -  1808

Level of description:

Unidad Documental Compuesta_en

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Archival History:

The documents from the Archive of State Ministry were subject to four transfers to the Archive of Alcalá de Henares between 1871 and 1883. This documentation was subsequently transferred to the Archivo Histórico Nacional (National Historical Archive). The Archive of the State Ministry sent its documentation directly to the Archivo Histórico Nacional in 1901.

Biography / Administrative history:

The change in dynasty occasioned a reform in the State Administration that, until then, had been based on the system of Councils. The most important one was that of State, whose president was the King, although he did not usually attend the sessions of the council. Thus, the communication between him and the monarch was established through the Secretary of that Council (the State Secretary), which gave him a great pre-eminence over the Secretaries of the other Councils.

This communication between the King and the State Secretary broke with the appearance of the "Valido", since he was with whom the State Secretary used to communicate, so the King felt he needed a closer person. This necessity would give rise to the birth of the Secretaría del Despacho (Secretary of the Office) in the reign of Philip IV, which then was renamed as Secretary of the Universal Office during the reign of Charles II. This Secretariat was subdivided in two parts by the Royal Decree of 11 July 1705, being Don José de Grimaldo in charge of War and Finance issues and the Marquis of Mejorada of other matters. Successive Royal Decrees were modifying the number and denomination of Secretarías del Despacho, while they were establishing their competences.

The Royal Decree of 30 November 1714 establishes four Secretarías del Despacho (State, War, Navy and Indies, and Justice and Political Government) and a Universal Intendant of the Veeduría General, which were reduced to three in 1715, when the Navy and Indies were joined to that of the War.

A Royal Decree of April 1717 establishes the "departments that must correspond to each of the Secretarías del Despacho'' which were the following: State, War and Navy, and Justice, Political Government and Treasury. The Indian affairs were distributed between the one of War and Navy and the one of Justice, Political Government and Property. Nevertheless, in 1719 all of the Indies were added to those of War, which became War, Navy and Indies.

Several Royal Decrees of 1754 and 1755 establish five Secretarías del Despacho, providing their competences. A Royal Decree of 15 May 1754 of the State Secretary by Mr. Ricardo Wall. Since 1868 it was called as the State Ministry.

Content and Structure

Scope and Content:

Documents on introduction of the vaccine in Spain, essays in various populations, reports from the Academies and Protomedicatos (physicians in the Spanish Indies responsible for regulating medical practitioners and inspecting apothecary shops), an expedition to South America for the propagation of the vaccine and others.

In 1796 Edward Jenner, an English physician, observed that milkmaids occasionally acquired a kind of "cowpox" through continued contact with these animals, and that this was a mild variant of the deadly "human" smallpox against which they were immunized.

Francisco Piguillem y Verdaguer (1770-1826), doctor and academic from Barcelona, inaugurated his practice on December 3, 1800 in Puigcerdá. The bovine pus was sent from Paris by François Colon.

Five years after the publication of Jenner's discovery in 1803 King Charles IV of Spain, advised by his court physician Balmis, ordered an expedition to extend the vaccine to all overseas territories (America and the Philippines). Balmis himself was chosen for this mission that departed from La Coruña with the 22 children who were going to carry the bovine fluid in their arms to America, and 2,000 copies of the book on the vaccine, in order to establish vaccination boards in the visited cities that guarantee fluid conservation and vaccination for future generations.

He traveled from La Coruña to San Juan, Puerto Rico, La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, Caracas, Havana, Merida, Veracruz and Mexico City. The vaccine reached places as far away as Texas in the north and New Granada in the south. Nevertheless, other members of his expedition took the vaccine to South America, to Chiloé (in the current Republic of Chile), including Dr. Salvany.

In September 1805 Balmis sailed aboard Magellan from the port of Acapulco to Manila, capital of the Philippines, and in 1806 he returned to Spain. On his return trip he still spread the vaccine through Macao and Canton (China) and on the island of Santa Elena, an English land in the South Atlantic.

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General accessibility conditions:

©MCD. Archivos Estatales (España). La difusión de la información descriptiva y de las imágenes digitales de este documento ha sido autorizada por el titular de los derechos de propiedad intelectual exclusivamente para uso privado y para actividades de docencia e investigación. En ningún caso se autoriza su reproducción con finalidad lucrativa ni su distribución, comunicación pública y transformación por cualquier medio sin autorización expresa y por escrito del propietario.

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Some images/documents have restrictions

Language and Scripts:

Español (Alfabeto latino). 

Related documentation

Medium/Archival Material:

Digitized contains digitized images



This document was pre-selected for EUROPEAN DISCOVERIES: FROM THE NEW WORLD TO NEW TECHNOLOGIES, exhibition of the "European Digital Treasures" project, funded by the European Union's Creative Europe Programme.

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120 Documento(s) on Papel_en .