Lecture 15 – Random Historical Facts in Medicine

We must know our history or we will be doomed to repeat it.  This was said by George Santayana.  Occasionally, I love to include facts that keep us familiar with how much we have accomplished.  As a researcher, I utilize history to keep myself encouraged to continue searching for cures.  Looking back I am happy that the researchers before us did not give up.  My favorite historical figure is Dr. Igna’c Semmelweis of the 1800’s in Europe.  Although his contributions were not recognized until after his untimely death, I am grateful for his existence.  Considered a strange character, he single-handedly determined that the cause of childbed fever arose from an absence of hand washing.  He insisted that physicians and medical students who performed dissections of cadavers, wash with a solution of chlorine and scrub with a brush.  He was never elevated to heroic status.  So I honor his insight now.  We will have a lecture devoted to his contributions to women’s health, anatomy, and microbiology.  Semmelweis trained under Dr. Rokitansky who performed over 30,000 autopsies.


  1.  Pathological anatomy – a field of inquiry that lies at the basis of all scientific medicine.  Founded in 1761, it is the study of structural changes that occur in organs and tissues when they become diseased.  Pathological physiology studies abnormalities in function, arose later, but overlaps.
  1.  The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by a Frenchman named Rene’ Laennec.

4 principles of examination-





  1. 20th century – biomedicine – developed in the German-speaking countries.  Germany, Austria, and Switzerland snatched medical leadership from the French.
  2. Erysipelas, a name given since the time of  Hippocrates, which referred to a rapidly spreading inflammation or infection.
  3. 1844 – pathological anatomy became compulsory in Vienna’s medical training programs…’the corpse was now seen as a treasure trove of enlightenment, to be scrutinized without the hurry required by the urgent needs of the sick’.  Within a few decades, microscopy and chemistry would advance to the point where body fluids and tissue samples were added to the sources information.

We will pick up the pace this coming week and move towards the completion of our survey of bones.  There is so much information to cover on the body’s foundation.  For this reason, I give interesting bits of information to keep us all interested.  Have a great weekend.


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