From the Medical Heritage Library, new information about Knighton's early medical career – definitely before 1813, when he received his baronetcy, and probably between 1798 to 1803, successful but difficult years when he was in private practice in Plymouth.
In 1815 the Berks and Bucks Vaccine Institution published a paper to promote vaccination with cowpox as a safer alternative to inoculation with smallpox. A footnote said that some years earlier the then Dr Knighton took matter from the arm of a girl who had developed cowpox following vaccination, and inserted it into one of his patients where it 'produced the disease in a satisfactory manner'.
This account is entirely plausible. The girl was the younger daughter of a Plymouth physician, Thomas Stewart, who vaccinated her in early 1801 when Knighton was still practising in Plymouth. The young Dr Knighton did not have happy memories of these years; his comment on a bruising incident with unnamed local colleagues was, 'Everything that is wrong punishes itself'.
In 1803 Knighton left Plymouth for London, and a year later Stewart wrote up the results of vaccination on his own children. If he had ever collaborated with the young doctor who had since left the area, he didn’t bother to mention him.
- Dunning, R, Minutes of some Experiments to ascertain The permanent security of Vaccination against Exposure to the Small-Pox (Dock: E Hoxland, 1804) Internet Archive
- Goolden, R (ed), Vaccine Papers, published under the sanction of the Berks and Bucks Vaccine Institution, No 1 (Maidenhead: G W Wetton, 1815) Internet Archive
- Knighton, Lady [Dorothea], Memoirs of Sir William Knighton, Bart, GCH, Keeper of the Privy Purse during the Reign of His Majesty King George the Fourth. Including his correspondence with many distinguished persons, 2 volumes (London: Richard Bentley, 1838) Internet Archive