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Masonic Contributions to Science & Medicine

Freemasons are men who yearn to be a part of something greater than themselves, who seek light and meaning in their lives via service to others and study of the universe’s mysteries. Our brothers have shaped the course of history for centuries by their leadership and unwavering commitment to education, inquiry, and discussion. While some of history’s most illustrious figures have visited lodge rooms the world over, few of these guys have had the impact on humanity that our greatest scientific brains have.

Masons have been responsible for some of the most significant medical and scientific accomplishments. Through their unflinching labor and fearless research, these Brothers have etched their names into history. Consider a handful of these inspirational guys, pay tribute to their great achievements, and respect the job they accomplished so that we can live more safely, dream bigger, and safeguard our loved ones.

Bro. Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.

Astronaut and Freemason Brother Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut and Freemason Brother Buzz Aldrin

Few historical achievements have been more motivating to the entire human race as the first lunar landing. As a member of the Apollo 11 expedition and the first Mason on the moon, Brother Buzz Aldrin made history. He courageously crossed a new frontier, inspiring pride in his countrymen, brothers, and all those who dare to dream of journeying among the stars.

Brother Aldrin was raised in Colorado at Lawrence N. Greenleaf Lodge No. 169. He was admitted into Freemasonry in Oak Park Lodge No. 864 in Alabama and raised at Lawrence N. Greenleaf Lodge No. 169 in Colorado. Additionally, he is a member of Houston’s York Rite and Arabia Shrine Temples. Prior to his flight to the moon, Aldrin received a special delegation from Texas Grand Master J. Guy Smith to create a Grand Lodge of Texas Representation on the Moon and to establish Masonic Territorial Jurisdiction for the Grand Lodge of Texas.

Worshipful Master Edward Jenner

Dr. Jenner performing his first vaccination on James Phipps in May 1796
Dr. Jenner performing his first vaccination on James Phipps in May 1796

Brother Edward Jenner, known in the Western world as “the founder of immunology,” is considered to have saved more lives than any other human in history. Jenner lived during a time when smallpox killed 10% of the population and up to 20% in densely populated areas where diseases spread quickly. During his studies, he discovered an antidote to smallpox, which became the world’s first vaccine.

Jenner became a Master Mason in 1802 and was a member of the Gloucestershire Lodge of Faith and Friendship #270. He was involved in the fraternity, serving as Master of his lodge in 1812. The Prince of Wales – the future George IV – was a frequent visitor to this lodge, and he would play an important part in Jenner’s life. Jenner was selected as King George IV’s special physician in 1821, after the now-King George IV had recognized him to be a man of integrity from their time together in lodge.

Because of Brother Edward Jenner’s research on smallpox, future doctors and scientists may be able to create solutions for diseases that formerly wreaked havoc around the world.

Sir Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister c. 1855
Joseph Lister c. 1855

While the concept of washing and sterilizing wounds to prevent infection may seem intuitive to us today, it is a relatively new practice in medicine. We may credit Brother Joseph Lister for developing antiseptics in medicine, which have saved many lives. Brother Lister’s bacteriology research established a cornerstone of preventative medicine: bacteria should not penetrate an open wound. This resulted in a change in medical procedures, such as the use of antiseptics to clean wounds and surgical tools.

He was dubbed the “Father of Modern Surgery” for his historical discovery, which helped reduce surgical infections and made surgery safer for patients worldwide. His use of antiseptics is still the foundation of current surgical methods today.

Sir Alexander Fleming

At center Alexander Fleming receives the Nobel prize from King Gustaf V of Sweden right 1945
At center, Alexander Fleming receives the Nobel prize from King Gustaf V of Sweden (right), 1945

Few events in human history have had the same impact as the fateful morning in 1929 when Scottish physician and microbiologist Alexander Fleming discovered a unique mold growing in a petri dish he was using for an experiment. Fleming was studying the influenza virus while growing the staphylococci bacteria on this plate. However, he found the mold had formed a bacteria-free circle around itself, inspiring Fleming to conduct additional experiments and find the active ingredient penicillin. This scientific accident would be hailed as the “single greatest victory ever achieved over sickness,” earning him a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain in 1945.

While we may take penicillin’s efficiency for granted today, its wide-ranging applicability in the treatment of ailments made it a really revolutionary discovery. Fleming was deservedly named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century” in 1999.

At the age of 27, Brother Fleming was initiated into London’s Sancta Maria Lodge No. 2682. In 1942, he was a Past Junior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England. He also belonged to Misericordia Lodge No. 3286.

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