Increasing understanding about the causes of disease (3.1)


The miasma theory

  • 19th century belief
  • 'bad air'
  • diseases caused by the presence of a posinous gas in the air
  • minute particles of decaying matter were carried in the air and caused a foul smell
  • diseases were spread because the posinous gases were carried from perosn to person and place to place in the air
  • industrilaisation had created many filthy, foul smelling areas in most cities. It was int hese areas in which disease was most common
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The germ theory

  • scientiss became interested in decaying matter and the maggots and flies that lived on and in it
  • the development of the microscope by Joseph Lister in 1830 enbaled them to observe micro-organisms in rotting material
  • there were two ideas: the decaying material created the micro-organisms and that micro-organisms in the air were attracted to the decaying material
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Which theory was correct?

  • 1860 - Pasteur conducted experiments proving that micro-organisms existed in the air and were not created by the decaying material
  • he dicovered that a disease in silkworms was caused by a particular micro-organism
  • not everyone believed him
  • many influential people were slow to let go of the miasma theory
  • Robert Koch proved in the 1880s and 1890s that germs caused most of the killer diseases of the 19th century
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