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PUERPERAL FEVER

17 May

Puerperal fever or childbed fever is (we now know) a bacterial infection of the genital tract, often leading to peritonitis and a dread- fully painful death. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some 6 to 9 women in every 1,000 deliveries succumbed to puerperal fever, and just under half [...]

JOHN SNOW AND CHOLERA

17 May

John Snow’s On the Mode of Communication of Cholera was published as ‘a slender pamphlet’ in August 1849, during a major cholera epidemic. It was republished, ‘with much new matter’, early in 1855, now four times its original length. The pamphlet of [...]

THE LABORAT ORY

17 May

Experiments on animals have, we have seen, been central to the development of modern medicine, but some have always found them repugnant, and many have refused to engage in them. The more I have thought about this subject the less sympathetic I have become to all animal experiments conducted before [...]

BIRTH OF THE CLINIC

17 May

Modern medicine, medical historians generally (although I think mis- takenly) agree, begins in France shortly after the French Revolution of 1789. The Revolution had completely disrupted medical educa- tion –– for a short time no new doctors graduated (the university faculties of medicine were abolished in 1792), and at [...]

MODERN MEDICINE COUNTING

17 May

In the eighteenth century, serious thought about the impact of medical intervention concentrated on one question: the merits of inoculation against smallpox. The procedure was simple: a thread covered with pus from a fresh pock on someone mildly infected with [...]