St George’s, University of London is backing a campaign to restore the statue of legendary former doctor and scourge of smallpox Edward Jenner to its original spot in Trafalgar Square. The movement has been set up by the Edward Jenner Museum, to mark 2010’s 30th anniversary of the eradication of the smallpox virus. St George's doctor Jenner developed a successful vaccine for the devastating disease that has helped save hundreds of millions of lives.

The museum, which is based at Jenner’s old country house in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, has set up a petition to move the bronze statue. The statue is currently in Kensington Gardens, but the campaign aims to have it moved back to the vacant fourth Trafalgar Square plinth, where it stood originally.

The statue was unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 1858 by Prince Albert, but it was removed four years later after pressure from anti-vaccination protesters. The museum wants the statue returned to honour the legacy that led to Jenner being dubbed the father of modern immunology.

Jenner, who studied under legendary St George’s surgeon John Hunter, his mentor, is perhaps responsible for saving more lives than anyone else in history. Since 10,000 BC, smallpox killed hundreds of millions of people, until Jenner developed a vaccine in 1796. His vaccine was made from cowpox passed from a cow named Blossom to a milkmaid. Jenner noticed that milkmaids only seemed to contract cowpox, rather than its deadly relative smallpox. So, using pus from blisters on the milkmaid’s hand, Jenner injected a young boy with cowpox. After gradually increasing the dose, he injected the boy with smallpox. The boy became ill, but when he made a full recovery after a few days Jenner realised he had a solution on his hands. The vaccine was eventually used all over the world.

Before vaccination, smallpox attacked one person in every three and killed one in 12. In the 20th century alone it killed 300 million people, and left survivors left severely scarred or blinded. Smallpox was eradicated in 1978, nearly 180 years after Jenner stated his hope that his vaccine would deliver such a result.

Blossom’s hide now usually hangs in the St George’s library in tribute to her role in Jenner’s life-saving breakthrough. And she is even responsible for the word ‘vaccine’, as it comes from the Latin for ‘cow’ – ‘vacca’.

An online petition can be found on the Edward Jenner Museum’s website – click here to support the campaign.