The Black Death that swept through Europe almost seven centuries ago forced the closure of many universities from Oxford to Padua and marked a decline in these medieval institutions that lasted for decades with low enrolment, empty campuses and a lack of funding.
Conversely, the smallpox pandemic of the late eighteenth century indirectly reinvigorated higher education. Edward Jenner’s discovery of a smallpox vaccine in 1796 highlighted the value of knowledge and scientific inquiry.
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