In recent weeks the debate over vaccinations has risen to a fevered pitch, pulling in every walk of American life into the argument. I find it interesting to look back into Colonial American history to see our earliest collective discourse on the safety and validity of vaccinations.
We can return to 1721 Boston when smallpox was a true scourge of the peninsula town. A pitched argument was underway between clergyman Cotton Mather and university trained physician William Douglass, the former a proponent while the latter a vocal opponent.
For a complete overview of the 1721 debate and perspective on how some anti-inoculation beliefs of the period have echoes today, check out this Harvard piece on the subject.