Edward Jenner and the smallpox vaccine (1798)
In 1796, Jenner investigated and discovered that dairy maids who often caught cowpox were less likely to catch small pox. He carried out an experiment on 23 patients to prove that cowpox protects a person from small pox. In 1798 he published his findings in a book.
Jenner faced opposition from doctors, who were making money from innoculation (giving someone a small dose of a disease to make them immune from it) and didn't want to lose income. However after publishing his work, the governemnt gave him a grant of £30,000 to open a vaccine clinic in London.
This was an important discovery because it saved thousands of lives and led to the development of further vaccines, now that it was known how vaccines prevented disease. However some may argue that it made little change in knowledge of medicine because Jenner couldn't easily explain his discovery.
John Snow and Cholera (1854)
He noticed that households living closer to the broad street pump were more likely to develop cholera. He took the handle off the water pump and the cases of cholera went down. This proved a link between cholera and dirty drinking water, which prompted the government to improve public health.
Factors that helped: individual genius, government (allowed him to take the handle off the pump), technology (water pump)
Beliefs about causes of disease in the 19th century
1. Miasma - the theory that disease is caused by poisonous vapours in the air.
2. Spontaneous Generation - the theory that decaying rubbish creates microbes.
Louis Pasteur's Germ Theory (1861)
Robert Koch and bacteria (1878)
He discovered how to grow and stain bacteria in a petri dish. This meant that he was able to find a specific bacterium that caused a specific disease:
- Scepticaemia 1878