Janet Parker

Photographer, Visual Artist

1938 – 1978


Who was Janet Parker?

Janet Parker was a British medical photographer who became the last person to die from smallpox. She was exposed to the virus as a result of a laboratory accident at the University of Birmingham Medical School. Parker was born in Birmingham, UK, and worked as a medical photographer in the Anatomy Department of the University of Birmingham Medical School, where she was accidentally exposed to a strain of smallpox virus that was grown in a research laboratory on the floor below the Anatomy Department. Her death led to the suicide of the then Head of the Microbiology Department.

An official government inquiry into Parker's death was led by R.A. Shooter, whose report was debated in the British Parliament. The conclusion that the virus was most likely spread from the smallpox laboratory through ducting was challenged in court when the University was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for breach of Health and Safety legislation. The prosecution failed.

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  • United Kingdom
Sep 11, 1978

on July 23, 2013


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