Francisco Javier de Balmis

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Bust of Francisco Javier Balmis at the Universidad Miguel Hernández in San Juan de Alicante, (Spain)

Francisco Javier de Balmis (2 December 1753 – 1819) was a Spanish physician who headed an 1804 expedition to Spanish America to vaccinate the populations against smallpox.[1]

Born in Alicante from Antonio Balmis, a surgeon of French origin and Luisa Berenguer,[2] Francisco Balmis moved to Havana, and later to Mexico City. In Mexico City he was principal surgeon at the Hospital of San Juan de Dios. There he studied plant remedies for venereal disease, publishing Tratado de las virtudes del agave y la begonia (Treatise on the benefits of agave and begonia) in Madrid in 1794.

Back in Spain, he became the physician of King Charles IV. He persuaded the king to send an expedition to America to propagate the recently discovered vaccine against smallpox. Balmis was named head of the expedition, which sailed from Spain in 1804. He traveled to Puerto Rico, Puerto Cabello, Caracas, Havana, Mérida, Veracruz and Mexico City. The vaccine was carried as far as Texas in the north and New Granada in the south.

In Mexico City, he had to convince the viceroy, José de Iturrigaray, but he did so, and the viceroy had his son vaccinated.

In 1806 Balmis sailed from Acapulco for Manila, and in 1806 he arrived back in Spain. He returned to Mexico again in 1810.

He wrote Instrucción sobre la introducción y conservación de la vacuna (Instructions for the introduction and conservation of the vaccine), and translated Moreau's work on the same subject, Tratado histórico-práctico, from the French. He died at Madrid in 1819.

Miguel Muñoz conserved and spread the vaccine in Mexico until 1844, when the project was taken over by his son Luis. After Luis Muñoz, Luis Malanco was in charge of the project.


  1. ^ Smith, Michael M (1970). "The 'Real Expedición Marítima de la Vacuna' in New Spain and Guatemala". Trans Amer. Phil. Soc. n.s. 64 (1): 1–74. 
  2. ^ Fundación Francisco X. de Balmis (Spanish)


  • "Balmis, Francisco Javier de", Enciclopedia de México, vol. 2. Mexico City: 1996, ISBN 1-56409-016-7.

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