1887

Chapter 11 : The Plague Protectors

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Abstract:

Secular medicine, which developed in parallel to the religious approach, is usually dated from the time of the Greeks in the fifth century BC and most often is personified by the physician Hippocrates of Cos. Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of modern medicine, believed there was a rational basis for disease. His theory on the mechanism of disease was based on an imbalance in the body of the four humors (fluids). The majority of people were treated by the literate clergy, especially the monks (who became physicians), women who were acquainted with medicinal plants, and lay surgeons who treated wounds. By 1918, few “old guard Listerians” still believed in antiseptic surgery. At this time (and even before), surgery was an unsafe practice because control of infection (by asepsis and antisepsis) and anesthesia were unknown. Sanitation, antisepsis, asepsis, and anesthesia prevented disease from needlessly destroying human life, but perhaps the most important point of these advances in health and medicine was their influence on the social climate and the greater acceptance and recognition of scientific truths. A review of how one of the more recent antibiotics, sulfa drugs, was discovered shows how its development was linked to aniline dyes. In concert with improvements in immunization, these plague protectors—imperfect as they were and as they continue to be—benefited the health of many people, but regrettably not all of humankind.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Figures

Image of Figure 11.1
Figure 11.1

The Doctor by Sir L. Fildes (1843-1927). Commissioned by Henry Tate in 1887 for his new National Gallery of British Art. The painting shows the artist's son attended by Doctor Murray, who, though he showed care, could do little to cure the dying child. (Courtesy of The Wellcome Library of Medicine.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.2
Figure 11.2

Asclepios, the god of medicine. Wrapped around his staff is a serpent, signifying death and suggesting that Asclepios was able to ward off illness and prevent death. The tiny figure standing by his right foot is Telesphorus, the child god of convalescence. From a ceremonial ivory diptych carved in the late Roman style.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.3
Figure 11.3

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins. © Courtesy Jefferson Medical University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.4
Figure 11.4

Lister using carbolic acid (phenol) as an antiseptic. (Courtesy of the Wellcome Library of Medicine.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.5
Figure 11.5

Surgery before anesthesia by the English School (18th century). Royal College of Surgeons, London, United Kingdom. The scene is in the operating theatre of St. Thomas' Hospital in Southwark London where a surgeon is beginning to amputate a leg. (Courtesy of the Bridgeman Art Library.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.6
Figure 11.6

First Operation under Ether by Robert C. Hinckley. Courtesy of Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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Image of Figure 11.7
Figure 11.7

James Simpson experiments with chloroform. Simpson and friends did not inhale chloroform vapors; instead, they drank liquid chloroform. (Courtesy of the Wellcome Library of Medicine.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11
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References

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Tables

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Death rates in two clinics in General Hospital, Vienna, Austria, 1841 to 1846

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. The Plague Protectors, p 230-252. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch11

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