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Health and the People>Revision notes (old)

William Harvey

  • William HarveyBritish doctor born in 1578. Studies medicine at Padua, Italy. Then worked in London at the Royal College of Physicians.
  • He became a physician to James I and Charles I.
  • Harvey studies both animals and humans. He realised he could observe living animal hearts in action and that his work would also apply to humans.
  • Before Harvey, people thought that there were 2 kinds of blood and they flowed through two completely separate systems of blood vessels. Galen’s idea.
  • Harvey realised Galen was wrong. He thought that the blood must circulate round the body. He published his book ‘On the motions of the heart and blood’ in 1628.
  • Harvey was a careful scientist who drew conclusions from methodical observations and experimentations.
  • Harvey’s ideas, shown in his books, gave doctors a map of how the body worked. Not everyone believed his theories. It took a long time before doctors used them in their treatments.

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner

  • In the 1700’s, smallpox was one of the most deadly diseases – in 1751, over 3500 people died of smallpox in London alone.
  • At the time, the only way to prevent smallpox was inoculation. This was promoted in Britain by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who learned about in Turkey. Inoculation was successful in preventing the disease but meant patients had to experience smallpox before they could become immune – some died as a result.
  • It involved making a cut in a patient’s arm and soaking it in pus taken from a swelling of somebody who already had a mild form of smallpox.
  • Edward Jenner (born in 1749) was a country doctor in Gloucestershire. He heard that milkmaids didn’t get smallpox but they caught the much milder cowpox.
  • Using careful scientific methods Jenner investigated and discovered that it was true that people who had had cowpox didn’t get smallpox.
  • In 1796 Jenner tested his theory. He injected a small boy, James Phipps, with pus from the sores of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid with cowpox. Jenner then infected him with smallpox. James didn’t catch the disease.
  • Jenner published his findings in 1798. He coined the term vaccination using the latin word for cow, vacca.
  • Jenner faced some opposition to his vaccine:
    • Many people were worried about giving themselves a disease from cows.
    • Some doctors who gave the older type of inoculation saw it as a threat to their livelihood.
    • One doctor, William Woodville, claimed that Jenner’s vaccination worked little better than inoculation, after several smallpox deaths occurred at his hospital.
    • When vaccination became compulsory in 1853, several groups were formed to campaign against it – they didn’t like the idea of the government telling them what to do.
  • But his discovery got the approval of parliament. In 1802 they gave Jenner £10,000 to open a vaccination clinic. And another £20,000 a few years later.
  • In 1840, vaccination against smallpox was made free for infants. In 1853 it was made compulsory.
  • The vaccine was a success – it contributed to a big fall in the number of smallpox cases in Britain.

Ambroise Paré

  • Ambroise ParéFrench barber surgeon born in 1510. Worked in a public hospital, then became an army surgeon.
  • He treated many serious injuries caused by the war, this helped him improve surgical techniques.
  • At this time, gunshot wounds often became infected. Doctors didn’t understand why this happened or how to treat it. The usual treatment was to burn the wound with a red hot iron or to pour boiling oil onto it. This often did more harm than good.
  • During one battle Paré ran out of oil and resorted to a simple cool salve (type of ointment) instead. To his surprise the patients treated this way did better than the ones scalded with oil.
  • Paré invented a method of tying off vessels with threads (ligatures). This was less painful so reduced the chance of the patient dying of shock. However there was still a chance of infection.
  • He also designed artificial limbs and improved the treatment of amputations.
  • Paré published his ideas to enable other doctors to read about them. British surgeons used the methods of Paré and took inspiration from his work. Over time, his ideas helped improve surgical techniques.
  • In 16th century England, there was a number of surgeons who followed Paré’s Renaissance approach to surgery: these surgeons observed, questioned and experimented with new ideas. The most famous was William Clowes.
  • Doctors resisted Paré’s ideas. He eventually became surgeon to the King of France and with his support his ideas started to be accepted.

Andreas Vesalius

  • Andreas VesaliusBorn in 1514 and was a medical professor at Padua University, Italy
  • He believed that successful surgery would only be possible if doctors had a proper understanding of the anatomy.
  • Vesalius was able to perform dissections on criminals who had been executed.
  • He wrote books based on his observations using accurate diagrams to illustrate his work. The most important was the ‘Fabric of the Human Body’ (1543)
  • His works were printed and distributed around the world. Printing was invented in the 1440’s. The first British printing press was in the 1470’s. This meant books could be copied more easily. This allowed ideas to be shared and discussed. People could learn from Vesalius’s discoveries.
  • Vesalius’ work helped to point out some of Galen’s mistakes. For example he showed that there were no holes in the septum of the heart.
  • His findings encouraged others to question Galen. Doctors also realised that there was more to discover about he body because of Vesalius’ questioning attitude.
  • The work of Vesalius didn’t have an immediate impact on the diagnosis or treatment of disease. However, by producing a realistic description of the human anatomy and encouraging dissection, Vesalius provided an essential first step to improving them.

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