Timeline: Medicine and its links with War and Chance

Medicine and its links with War and Chance

This list is intended to provide a range of examples of the way that war and chance have been linked to medicine over time. The list will be updated as I teach different periods of the course to this years cohort.

The Prehistoric period Cave paintings show us that operations were carried out on injuries sustained in fighting.
The Ancient World Developing battlefield technology led to new surgical techniques: surgeons learnt methods of treating not only wounds from arrows, swords and other edged weapons but also developed treatments for burns sustained as a result of the use of Greek Fire, oils etc.
The Romans built military hospitals like the one at Inchtuthil, Scotland.
Roman forts incorporated bathhouses, sewers etc.
Vegetius (Roman c400AD) writes of unsuitable sites for the Roman Army to set up camp.
Sekhmet – goddess of war
Alexander the Great’s conquests lead to the spread of ideas (Egypt > Mesopotamia > India).
Romanisation leads to the introduction of public health works and the building of roads.
AD110: Trajan’s column – shows roman medics at work.
Fall of Rome: destruction of western European libraries, hospitals etc.
Medieval The Crusades led to a spread of ideas. Islamic practices were brought into Europe and the books of the Ancient Greeks which had been lost to the western world were reintroduced.
The Hundred years war is losely linked to the spread of the Black Death.
Mongol use of ‘germ warfare
13th century: Theodoric of Lucca writes that warfare is changing so quickly that ‘every day we see new instruments and new methods being invented by clever and ingenious surgeons.’ He and his father, Hugh of Lucca, introduce the use of wine as an antiseptic.
Wound Man illustrations are used by battlefield surgeons.
The Renaissance 1536, Turin: Ambroise Pare, a young army surgeon, runs out of cauterising oil during battle. Desperate to provide some kind of care, he quickly creates a lotion from the available materials. Fearful that his patients would die overnight he wakes early, only to find that the men he had treated with the new potion are healing much better than those who had been cauterised.
1575, France: Pare publishes his ‘Works on Surgery’ which introduces the idea of using ligatures following an amputation.
The Industrial Revolution 1870, France: The French army suffers 23400 casualties from smallpox during the Franco-Prussian war. The german army on the other hand, had introduced vaccination and suffered only 297 cases of smallpox.
1880, France. Louis Pasteur and his team accidentally use old material and inadvertently discover a vaccine for Chicken Cholera.
The Crimean War: The work of Florence Nightingale in military hospitals in the Crimea highlights the need to have clean and orderly wards.
The Boer War: 40% of volunteers for the army from some towns are found to be unfit to serve.
The Modern World The First World War leads to the rapid development of Plastic Surgery; use of X-Rays becomes commonplace; new techniques for operating on many parts of the body are developed and Blood Banks are established to enable blood transfusions to be carried out at the front.