A linguist friend recently asked me if I was familiar with the etymology of the word “vaccine.” (Yes, linguists talk about this in general conversation). I wasn’t, and she enlightened me.

It’s from the Latin for “cow” – vacca – or better vaccinus, meaning “of/from the cow.” People who became ill with cowpox were known to be immune to the more deadly smallpox virus, and the cowpox virus was originally used as an immunization (vaccination) against smallpox.

Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about the clever scientist who figured this out:

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