Medical Breakthrough: Germ Theory

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  • Louis Pasteur
    • Medical Breakthrough: Germ Theory
      • The four basic principles:
        • the air contains living micro-organisms
        • Microbes can be killed by heating them
        • Microbes in the air cause decay
        • microbes are not evenly distributed in the air
      • Robert Kock's work on microbes
        • German: successfully identified that different germs cause many common diseases.
          • 1882: Tuberculosis. 1883: cholera, 1884: cholera spread in water,
        • Developed methods of growing and staining microbes to make them easier to research.
        • Influence in Britain
          • It was understood that it was the microbe that caused the disease and so it was he microbe that needed to be removed.
          • encouraged other scientists/ doctors to also research into the microbes that caused diseases.
      • The impact of Germ theory in Britain.
        • slow process: only after all the scientists had found the microbe could vaccines and cures be tested.
        • The Government rejected the theory, instead still believing in miasma.
        • Ultimately it was one of the most important discoveries in medical history
    • A French scientist: used the improved microscopes- published in 1861
    • disproved the idea of spontaneous generation, as decay did not happen to matter that was left undisturbed.
      • Something in the air was causing the decay
      • theorized that, if germs caused decay, then they could cause disease
      • Continued to be popular until 1870s
    • Influence in Britain
      • Had almost no influence initially as he wasn't a doctor and his work focused on decay rather than disease.
      • Joseph Lister
        • Read Pasteur's work and linked it to the infection problems in surgery.
          • Didn't have evidence
      • John Tyndall
        • discovered organic particles in the air - linked to Pasteur and Lister's work.
          • wasn't a doctor, so he was doubted.
      • limited impact because of attitudes among doctors: people refused to recognise the link between germs and disease.


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