Medical Advances 1850-1910

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The contributions of several doctors, researchers, and scientists helped improve the health of the growing population. In 1850 the average life expectancy was 42 years. By 1910 the average life expectancy had risen to nearly 55 years. Between 1850 and 1910 there were several advances in the medical field. The introduction of genes, white blood cells, blood groups, insulin, rubber gloves, aspirin, and vitamins and the discoveries of Pasteur, Charcot, Halsted, Zirm, Lister, and Koch were the starting point of an international fight against disease.

A remarkable breakthrough in medicine occurred in the late 1800s through the work of Louis Pasteur. Pasteur's experiments showed that bacteria reproduce like other living things and travel from place to place. Using the results of his findings, he developed pasteurization, which is the process of heating liquids to kill bacteria and prevent fermentation. He also produced an anthrax vaccine as well as a way to weaken the rabies virus. After studying Pasteur's work, Joseph Lister developed antisepsis, which is the process of killing disease-causing germs. In 1865 before an operation, he cleansed a leg wound first with carbolic acid, and performed the surgery with sterilized (by heat) instruments. The wound healed, and the patient survived. Prior to surgery, the patient would've needed an amputation. However, by incorporating these antiseptic procedures in all of his surgeries, he decreased postoperative deaths. The use of antiseptics eventually helped reduce bacterial infection not only in surgery but also in childbirth and in the treatment of battle wounds. Another man that made discoveries that reinforced those of Pasteur's was Robert Koch. Robert Koch isolated the germ that causes tuberculosis, identified the germ responsible for Asiatic cholera, and developed sanitary measures to prevent disease. (1)

In the late 1880s, genes, white blood cells, and aspirin were discovered. An Augustinian monk from...
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