Smallpox was a highly virulent, contagious disease. Initial attempts to control the disease by variolation were controversial and dangerous. Variolation was the subject of some of the earliest published clinical trials. Vaccination was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796. From initial skepticism by the medical community the uptake became so widespread that smallpox vaccination was made compulsory in England and Wales in 1853. Eventually, this led to the eradication of smallpox in 1980. Parallels can be drawn with modern vaccination and the smallpox vaccine especially with the current intense media scrutiny of modern vaccinations.