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National Museum of Australia

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Set of bifurcated needles in original plastic container

2010.0021.0001

Set of bifurcated needles in original plastic container

Object information

Physical description

A set of bifurcated needles each consisting of a pronged piece of steel. There are sixty-nine needles stored in a white plastic canister with a screw top lid. The base has perforations around the rim and three small feet.The top of the lid is cone shaped and has a hole pierced through it.

Statement of significance

The Professor Frank Fenner collection consists of one set of bifurcated needles in their original plastic container, manufactured for the World Health Organisation during the intensive smallpox eradication campaign between 1967 and 1980. Used for administering smallpox vaccine, the needles were stored in the specially designed plastic container which could also be placed in boiling water to sterilize the needles for multiple use.

Professor Frank Fenner spent the majority of his career studying poxviruses. He was appointed Professor of Microbiology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in 1949, and was involved in research of the myxomia virus and its use in the eradication of rabbits. In 1977, Fenner was appointed Chairman of the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication which he saw through to its conclusion in 1980 when the World Health Assembly certified the global eradication of smallpox. In Fenner's opinion, the development of the bifurcated needle was 'a major technical breakthrough in the ability to control smallpox'.

Object information

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