Colloquium: April 5, 2011

The Pox and the Covenant: The Curious History of Science and Religion in Colonial America

Tony Williams

TUESDAY: April 5, 2011 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium


Tony Williams will present a lecture on a 1721 Boston smallpox epidemic that led to the first American inoculations and sparked a dramatic debate over science and religion. In the tradition of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Mr. Williams will explore the uneasy reception given to inoculation by the scientific community and the serendipitous manner in which this great medical discovery was made. He will also examine the path of the transmission of inoculation from non-western folk medicine to the West during the scientific revolution and Enlightenment. At the center of the controversy were Reverend Cotton Mather of Salem witch trial infamy and a young Benjamin Franklin, destined to become “America’s First Scientist.”


Tony WilliamsHistorian Tony Williams is the author of four books about colonial and Revolutionary America including Hurricane of Independence, The Pox and the Covenant, America’s Beginnings, and The Jamestown Experiment. He earned undergraduate and graduate history degrees from Syracuse University and Ohio State University. He taught history for ten years in Ohio and Virginia, and is currently teaching history at Peninsula Catholic High School in Newport News. He has lectured on the history of colonial and Revolutionary America across the country and appeared on C-SPAN Book TV multiple times. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and children.