Category: Medicine

Edwardian era History Medicine World War One

Treating Bone Fractures in the Early 20th Century

While a broken bone today can be a nuisance, in the early 20th century, it would be a serious, if not deadly, injury. People had known from ancient times to immobilize broken bones with a splint or a brace. Later, bone setters were used to move the bone into place before immobilization. The location of […]

Edwardian era History Medicine Victorian era

Typhoid Fever: A Consequence of Contaminated Water

Typhoid fever is a disease pandemic in areas without a clean water supply. In the Victorian era, before plumbing was common, and in the Edwardian era, in areas that still relyed on outhouses, the disease was a daily threat. Public health campaigns encouraging people to wash their hands helped reduce the number of cases. So […]

Edwardian era History Medicine World War One

Surgery During World War One

During World War One, 19 million men were wounded, and an estimated 500,000 amputations were performed. As frightening as these numbers are, men who lived long enough to receive medical attention had a relatively high survival rate. This success was due in part to modern innovations such as antiseptics. Other medical tools included: Anesthesia Since […]

Edwardian era History Medicine World War One

Blood Transfusion Saved Lives During World War One

If war does have a silver lining, it’s the medical advances which come as a result. One of these advances is the blood transfusion. Blood transfusion was nothing new in 1914. Doctors had experimented with it since the 1600s. These early transfusions were from person to person, and sometimes didn’t work. Doctors weren’t sure why […]

Edwardian era History Medicine Victorian era

Diphtheria: Inspiration for a Race Held Annually Since 1925

In the early 20th century, diphtheria was among the top 10 causes of death. Death rates, however, were dropping. An antitoxin was developed in 1890 and began being used on patients the following year. It worked by neutralizing the toxins produced by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacterium. Sometimes the antitoxin, which was taken from horses, was […]

Edwardian era History Medicine Victorian era

Pneumonia: Leading Cause of Death in the Early 20th Century

In the days before antibiotics many people died from communicable diseases. One of these diseases was pneumonia. At the turn-of-the-20th-century it was the leading cause of death, and 40 percent of those who died were under the age of five. Adults, of course, were not immune. Women were susceptible to pneumonia because their tight corsets […]

Edwardian era History Journalism Medicine Victorian era Women's history

Victorian Insane Asylums: Treating Disease with Torture

Institutions to house the mentally ill began in the Middle Ages. The word “bedlam” is derived from the 760-year-old Bethlem Royal Hospital, which is still in operation. In the 21st century, unfortunately, there is a stigma about mental illness. One hundred years ago, however, being mentally ill meant more than being judged and stereotyped.  It […]

History Medicine Victorian era

Murder of a President and Dr. Lister: The Battle over Germ Theory

PBS’s excellent series American Experience has an episode entitled “Murder of a President” about the assassination of James Garfield in 1881. Garfield died of what today would have been a survivable bullet wound. It wasn’t the bullet which killed him; it was hemorrhage and massive infection. In fact, it is quite possible his medical care […]

History Medicine World War One

The Soldier’s Disease: Morphine Addiction

When it came to pain relief during World War One, the medication of choice was morphine. It was reserved for the most severe injuries as its addictive properties were already well known.  So much so that morphine addiction was referred to by the euphemism “soldier’s disease” as far back as the American Civil War. Morphine […]

Canada Edwardian era History Medicine

A Brief History of Royal Victoria Hospital — Barrie, Ontario

My fictional character Hettie Steward worked at her hometown hospital, Royal Victoria, between finishing nursing school and joining the Canadian Army Medical Corps, Even though the hospital plays a very small role in Angel of Mercy, its history gives us an interesting glimpse into medical care during the first part of the 20th century. Some […]

Canada History Medicine World War One

Canadian Army Medical Corps: Working Dangerously Close to the Front Line

The Canadian Army Nursing Corps was part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). It was founded in 1904 and its members served during World War One in France, Belgium and around the Mediterranean. By the time Armistice was declared in 1918, 21,453 nurses, physicians, dentists, ambulance drivers, stretcher bearers and orderlies had served. Of […]

Canada Edwardian era History Medicine Women's history

Nursing School in the 1910s — the School of Nursing Toronto General Hospital

Hettie Steward, my main character in Angel of Mercy, is a 1913 graduate of the School of Nursing Toronto General Hospital.   By the time of her graduation, it was the largest and among the most prestigious nursing schools in Canada. Competition to be accepted into the program was stiff and had been since 1894. Let’s […]

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