Timeline of events: c.1840-1948

Medicine 1846 - 1946: supporting resources

  • Student resources
  • Films
    Numerous films portray the American West. Below are some of our recommendations., based on what have successfully used in class. Be beware that some content my be inappropriate for your class. Please check before showing.

  • YouTube

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    Check out or youtube channel:
    GCSE History for selected recommended viewings.

Medicine 1846 - 1946: timeline

  • Surgery, 1840 - 1900



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    Use of anaesthetics an improvement?

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    Use of antiseptics an improvement?

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    Germ Theory
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    Blood transfusions

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  • Understanding disease, 1860 - 1900

    Understanding disease

    The battle against germs

    Old beliefs

    Supernatural Theories
    . God or the stars & planets caused illness

    Spontaneous Generation Theory
    . decaying matter creates microbes & eggs & maggots

    Bad air
    . bad air & bad smell caused illness & diseases (miasma)

    New theory

    Scientific thinking
    looking for scientific explanations
    Development of microscopes
    scientists now able to see microbes

    Germ theory
    microbes were the cause of decay & not the result. Microbes were in the air.

    . people found it hard to believe that tiny microbes in the air could cause disease

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    The battle against disease

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    Vaccinations: .Typhoid 1896 . Tuberculosis 1906 . Tetanus 1927 . Whooping Cough 1952. Polio 1954

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  • Understanding disease, 1928 - 1945

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    Making penicillin work
    team in Oxford 1940

    Howard Florey
    seeing the potential of Fleming’s penicillin
    they worked on purifying it to make it usable

    Ernst Chain
    one of the team used freeze drying to purify penicillin

    could not make enough penicillin
    Wanted to treat injured soldiers in WWII

    US govt. gave $80 million to drug companies when USA joined the war in 1941.

    By 1944 penicillin in
    mass production able to kill a variety of germs inside the body inc. blood poisoning in war wounds

    Fleming, Florey & Chain
    awarded Nobel Prize in 1945

  • Hospitals, 1800s


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    supposed to be for the unemployed but full of the very poor, old, sick & disabled.
    Campaigners wanted better help for these people.

    Church & Charities
    built hospitals & cared for the poor

    Middle class
    pay into a doctor’s sick club every week to get treatment when needed

    Pay for a doctor & be treated at home inc. surgery

    By 1900
    situation improved with local councils & towns paid for hospitals


    still thousands of sick people in the workhouse rather than a hospital

    Quality varied across the country

    Role of women in hospitals

    Role of women before 1845
    Role of women in medicine very restricted:

    Limited to home care of the family

    There was no university open to women to
    become doctors

    However, women had a good reputation for the knowledge of natural herbal remedies

    Women were nurses, but it was a profession with a very low standing

    Hospitals were for the poor, as the rich got treated at home when they were ill

  • Role of women, 1800s

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    Role of women as doctors

    After 1870
    Things did not change for the better straight away even after Elizabeth Garrett’s success.

    Six women studied medicine at Edinburgh University, but then they would not graduate them.
    They went to Zurich & Dublin to complete their medical degrees.

    British Parliament
    passed a law to say all medical degrees were open to women.

    Still a number of restrictions on women doctors for many years

    Women only 24% of doctors in England & Wales

    Over 90% nurses are female

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  • Role of women, 1900s

    Role of women in World War I

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    After WWI
    Even after everything that nurses did during WWI, they were
    still not a legal group.

    Women got paid less than men doing the same jobs in hospitals etc.

    Women doctors were often forced to give up their jobs when
    they got married.

    Discrimination against women continued after WWI.
    Whilst hospitals etc said jobs were open to women, not many women were given jobs.

    Rare for women doctors in civilian life at the start of WW2.
    Very few joined RAMC, but some did. It was controversial as women doctors had to examine male soldiers particularly when they were leaving the army at the end of WW2 to make sure they had no diseases.

    Role of women in World War II

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  • Public Health, 1840 - 1914

    Public Health


    in the C19th cities in Britain grew rapidly.
    Overcrowding, poor sanitation
    (no sewers), pollution, poor housing etc

    infectious diseases were common & they spread quickly:
    . smallpox
    . tuberculosis
    . typhoid fever

    . cholera

    . governments believed in leaving things as they were - that it is was not their business to get involved.
    This attitude slowly changed over time as research showed the need for govt. to do something. As people got the right to vote, govt’s were forced to listen to what people wanted.
    Diseases increasingly affected the rich as well as the poor, so that helped change the rich people’s attitude to public health.

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    Appointed to design a sewer system for London.
    Difficult to get the money needed until the:
    Great Stink 1858
    The River Thames was next to Parliament.
    The smell was overwhelming.
    The MPs now granted
    Joseph Bazalgatte
    the money he needed. The London Sewers were completed in 1866.

    Improvements in technology helped Bazalgatte as he needed large engines to pump water through the sewers
    (they lasted nearly 100 years!)


    vaccinations were available for free, but still not everyone
    trusted it.
    So in1852 the government made
    vaccinations compulsory.

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  • Public Health, after 1900

    By 1900 improvements
    . clean water supplies
    . sewerage
    . drains
    . rubbish collection
    . vaccinations

    Laissez-faire had come to an end.

    The government were now expected to
    improve the health of the people.

    Further reforms
    NOT public health but improved the standard of living for people, therefore improve their health & well being…

    All part of the governmentmbeing more proactive
    in people’s livesn(end of laissez-faire)

    Worker Compensation Act 1906
    . workers got money if injured at work

    Miners 1908
    . miners work only 8 hours a day

    Shop workers
    . half a day off each week

    Labour exchanges
    . govt. helped people find jobs
    BUT: jobs often temporary or part time

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    Beverage Report 1942:

    Need social reforms to tackle ‘Five Giant Evils’
    . ignorance
    . idleness
    . disease

    . minimum level of social & health care for all

    . social insurance - paid by state & individual
    . others can also provide health & social care

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    Opposition to the NHS:

    . 64% of doctors did not want to work for the govt. - so they were allowed to have private patients
    . Many Conservative MPs were against the NHS
    . Some people felt local councils were better placed to run hospitals than central govt.

    . Many people did not want to employed by the govt.
    . Some said NHS should be paid by insurance not taxation

  • The role of war in the development of medicine, WWI and WWII

    Role of War in the development of medicine

    Developments before 1914

    Developments before 1914
    Few medical developments were new in World War I.

    Existing knowledge & inventions were often improved upon or used on a large scale for the first time.

    Thomas Splint
    . invented before the war by Hugh Owen Thomas

    . discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen

    Blood transfusions
    . blood groups
    were discovered in 1901 by Karl Landsteiner an Austrian.
    In 1907 Reuben Ottenburg in New York did the first blood transfusion. Had no way of storing the blood without it clotting.

    Plastic surgery
    . French & German doctors had been developing skin graft techniques before WWI

    Surgery improved a great deal during the war because of the huge numbers of operations performed

    BUT: less research in other areas of medicine as demand for surgeons
    was so high

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    Developments before 1945

    Blood plasma
    . use of plasma first suggested in 1918

    . anti tetanus serum first used in WWI
    . vaccine developed in 1924

    Plastic surgery
    . developed from WWI & the work of Gillies

    . discovered in 1928,
    but not able to make penicillin in large enough quantities, until WWII

    Report 1942
    , people were wanting good quality life for everyone, inc. medical care

    . National Health Service
    free to everyone, paid for by National Insurance Contributions
    . doctors & nurses etc paid by the govt.
    . sick pay, pensions & unemployment benefit for everyone

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