History GCSE- OCR- Medical Figures

Each of the following cards have details on historical medical figures recommended by the OCR exam board. It is not yet complete and only goes up to Robert Koch however I will continue to add doctors until the cards cover medical figures from Ancient Greel times to the 20th century. Hope you find this rescource useful. :D



  • Lived from approximately 460-377 BC in ancient Greece, on the island of Kos.
  • Often called the "Father of Medicine" because his ideas form the basis of modern medicine.
  • He dismissed the idea illness was caused by evil spirits and disfavour of the Gods. He had a practical approach to medicine.
  • He created the theory of the 4 humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. He thought it necessary to balance them.
  • The use of the 4 humours as a diagnostic tool resulted in doctors looking for symptoms. This process is called clinical observation and is still used today: DIAGNOSIS - PROGNOSIS  - OBSERVATION - TREATMENT
  • Hippocrates findings meant priests weren't so heavily relied and some people began to move away from supernatural treatments and beliefs.
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Claudius Galen

  • Lived from 131 AD - 201 AD during the Roman empire despite originating from Ancient Greece.
  • Aged 16, he went to Alexandria to study medicine and then returned to Rome. His success at treating gladiators angered Romans and he was forced to flee. He came back to Rome in 168 AD because he was offered the job of physician to the emperor.
  • Galen was famous for proving the brain controlled the body.
  •  He also wrote over 60 books which were used for the next 1500 years. Although this meant pseudo scientific medicine was continually used his ideas were not questioned and this undoubtedly slowed medical progress.
  • He developed Hippocrate's ideas, creating the theory of the opposites. E.g a fever could be cured by something cold, breathing problems could be treated by singing.
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Ambroise Paré

  • Born in France and lived from 1510-1590.
  • He came from a family of barber surgeons.
  • In 1536 he became an army surgeon and spend the next 20 years in the trade.
  • His first discovery came in 1536. Whilst on campaign he supposedly ran out of oil (which was normally boiled and poured on wounds to stop both bleeding and poisons from gunshots spreading). Instead, he used an ancient Roman remedy of applying an ointment to the wound. He expected them all to die but by morning those with the ointment were fine whilst the other soldiers were in agony.
  • He also used silk thread to tie blood vessels together instead of applying a cauterising iron.
  • In 1575 he published his books on "Works on Surgery".
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Andreas Vesalius

  • Was a flemish dwarf who was born in Belgium and lived from 1514-1564.
  • He came from a family of physicians.
  • Studied medicine in Paris and then Padua, Italy.
  • Originally he stole bodies from Paris' cemeteries and dissected them in his house but when he became professor of Surgery and Anatomy at the university of Padua a local judge gave him permission to examine the city's deceased criminals. He could now repeat experiments.
  • In 1543 he published his life's work: "On the Fabric of the Human Body". The book named every bone in the body and corrected over 200 of Galen's mistakes made 1400 years previously. E.g Galen thought the jaw was in 2 pieces but Vesalius discovered it comprised just 1 piece. 
  • Vesalius claimed Galen was wrong because at the time dissecting bodies was forbidden. Vesalius was disliked by other medical professionals because ancient Greek ideas were still heavily relied upon.
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William Harvey

  • Born in Kent, England and lived from 1578- 1657.
  • He studied medicine at Cambridge and Padua, Italy.
  • His lecturer at Padua knew the body's veins has one-way valves but didn't know why. Harvey realised veins circulated blood round the body.
  • He became physician to King James I and his successor.
  • In 1638 he published "An Anotomical Account of Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals". It was revolutionary because it explained how the heart propelled blood around the body in a circular course. It disproved Galen's theory that the liver created blood which was then burnt up.
  • His ideas saved lives much later on when the first blood transfusions and heart transplants were performed.
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Edward Jenner

  • Born in Gloucestershire, England and lived from 1749- 1823.
  • Whilst working as a GP Jenner noticed local milkmaids got cowpox but didn't suffer from smallpox, a much more serious illness.
  • Through studying the work of other people he performed an experiment on 32 patients. He spread cowpox puss onto their broken skin, they would suffer from a mild illness but be immune to smallpox when it was injected in to their blood streams. He concluded: "that the cowpox protects the human constitution from the infection of small pox".
  • He submitted the report to the Royal Society in 1798 but it was refused. He published the report by himself.
  • The government felt his methods of inoculation were so significant he receive £30000 to open a vaccination clinic in London.
  • Although Jenner wasn't the first to create this form of vaccination, he popularised the idea.
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Florence Nightingale

  • Was English and lived from 1820- 1910.
  • She belonged to a wealthy, upper class family who intended her for marriage but she though God wanted her to be a nurse.
  • In 1851, her parents relented and she went to Germany to train.
  • In 1854 the Crimean war began. Reports came back about the appalling standard of care and hygiene in war hospitals. Sidney, Herbert, who knew the Nightingale family, requested Florence to leave for the Crimea with a group of handpicked nurses. In 1854, Florence arrived in Turkey, her team were able to massively reduce mortality rates.
  • In 1860, after the war, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses in London.
  • In 1860 she published "Notes on Nursing" which was hugely influential.
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Louis Pasteur

  • Born in France and lived from 1822- 1895.
  • Trained as a chemist at Lille and then Paris.
  • He first identified microorganisms when he was employed by a brewery to discover why their beer was putrefying. 
  • He used his knowledge of microbes in the souring of milk to create pasteurisation which killed both typhoid and tuberculosis and had previously existed in milk.
  • By conducting a series of experiments he was able to disprove the theory of miasmic poisoning and spontaneous generation- he created germ theory.
  • Research in to anthrax and chicken cholera lead to new vaccines. His most notable achievement was the creation of the rabies vaccine developed in 1885.
  • Although he invented germ theory other professionals made better use of it including Robert Koch.
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Joseph Lister

  • Born in Essex, England and lived from 1827- 1912.
  • He was a famous surgeon and bacteriologist.
  • After graduation, he worked as a surgeon in Edinburgh and Glasgow hospitals.
  • He developed an antiseptic technique inspired by Pasteur's work on germ theory. He used carbolic acid after realising its effectiveness on reducing the smell of sewage. In 1865 he tested it on a boy's leg which had been run over by a cart. 6 weeks later, the boy was fully healed.
  • He also used carbolic acid in surgery to wash their hands and spray a fine mist over the patient to kill lurking microbes.
  • The chemical was very irritating to the skin so many surgeons didn't use it.
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Robert Koch

  • Born in Germany and lived from 1843- 1910.
  • Was a physicist and bacteriologist and became Professor of Public Health in Berlin.
  • His paper entitled: "The aetiology of traumatic infectious diseases" in 1879 gave conclusive evidence in favour of Germ Theory. 
  • He was successful in identifying the bacterium which cases tuberculosis (1882) and the human strain of cholera (1883). 
  • His most important discovery stemmed from the method of pasteurisation developed by Pasteur. By heating things to a high temperature a sterile environment was a created. Instead of using carbolic, an antiseptic chemical used by Lister, he created the method of asepsis. All instruments and later gowns and gloves were sterilised before use in surgery. It was the most effective way of preventing a infection.
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