“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” So said Albert Pike (1809-1891), a leading American Freemason, in perhaps the best definition of what Freemasonry stands for. It could have been written about Edward Jenner, another famous (Gloucestershire) Freemason born some years earlier in 1749. He was the son of the vicar of Berkeley who was apprenticed to a doctor in Cirencester before moving to St George’s Hospital in London, eventually returning to Berkeley in 1772. He became a Freemason in 1802, joining the Lodge of Faith and Friendship, serving as Master in 1812-13.
Freemasonry had been around for some time before that and was very heavily influenced by, and contributed to, The Age of Enlightenment when science and political thought made massive advances. That drive to push the boundaries of knowledge was reflected in Jenner’s mantra of “try it”. He wanted to investigate the folklore that those who had caught cowpox never contracted the often fatal (one in three of those infected) smallpox. He infected, using pus from a cowpox sore, eight year old James Phipps then exposed him to smallpox to prove his immunity. After obtaining further proof to persuade the sceptical and derisory his paper was published and accepted in 1798. What he did for others which still remains is to save the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people (and also to give us the word vaccination from the Latin for cow). The World Health Organisation declared smallpox eradicated in 1980, the first disease to have been eliminated by human intervention; exactly as Edward Jenner predicted that it would be, in fact.
In a tribute to their most famous member The Lodge of Faith and Friendship (which still meets in Berkeley) laid on a demonstration of an initiation into Freemasonry as it would have been when Jenner was master of the lodge. In a further tribute to the 200th anniversary of his death there will be a concert in the local church on the 22nd of April.
Freemasons in Gloucestershire continue to “do for others” by donating over £240,000 to local Gloucestershire charities in 2022. We like to think that Albert Pike and our very own Edward Jenner would approve.