Encourages smallpox inoculation

During this time Mather also pursued his wide-ranging scientific interests. He wrote about fossils, astronomy, mathematics, zoology (the study of animals), entomology (a branch of zoology that deals with insects), ornithology (a branch of zoology dealing with birds), and botany (the study of plants). Like other clergymen, he studied and practiced medicine as an amateur. In his autobiography he explained that his attraction to medicine came about as a result of his own hypochondria (fear of illnesses). When he was a teenager he had an intense curiosity about medical literature. Devouring book after book, he eventually began to imagine that he himself had the symptoms of the diseases he was reading about. Over the years Mather became an authority on the causes and cures of mental illness, measles, scurvy (a disease caused by lack of vitamin C), fevers, and smallpox. In fact, in 1721 he was the foremost advocate of smallpox inoculation in America. (Smallpox is a highly contagious, often fatal viral disease that produces skin sores on the body. Inoculation is the introduction of the disease-causing agent into the body in order to create an immunity, or resistance.) Mather possibly promoted this new technique because of the terrible toll the disease had taken in his own life: two of his fifteen children and one of his three wives had died from smallpox.

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