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The Changes In Medicine In The Nineteenth Century

2283 words - 9 pages

The Changes In Medicine In The Nineteenth Century

The nineteenth century was one of the most important eras in the
history of medicine as many new cures and technologies were
discovered. At the beginning, many poor people still lived in houses
without proper sanitation, worked in dangerous factories and drank
water from polluted rivers.

By the end of the century, social conditions had improved, medicine
was more complex, treatments were more widely offered and technology
was more advanced along with many other improvements. But why did
these changes occur? What caused them? Why did they occur during the
nineteenth century and not before.

During the nineteenth century, Britain became the first industrialised
nation in the world and with the machines came problems. Many rural
people, finding themselves out of work, moved to the towns in search
of a new job in the factories. Even though new industrialised towns
were built such as Manchester or Leeds, the towns could not cope with
the amount of people. Houses were illegally built in cramped
conditions next to factories that heavily polluted the air. In these
slums, disease was rife and many died from cholera, typhoid,
tuberculosis and many more. Some died from injuries at work, where an
arm was cut off and the wound turned septic.

According to Edwin Chadwick's 'Report on the Sanitary Conditions of
the Labouring Population of Great Britain' which was published in
1842; the average age of death depended on class and on where you
lived. The results show that people generally lived longer in the
countryside and people of a higher class lived longer than those who
worked in the factories. The average age of death for the working
class in Leeds was just nineteen years of age compared to thirty-eight
in a rural area. This report recommended that the government should
organise proper drainage and refuse collection, provide a pure water
supply and appoint a Medical Officer of Health. However, these changes
were not implemented until thirty years later when Parliament finally
agreed.

There were a number of reasons why the government's view of health
conditions in towns changed in the 1870's. The health in towns was
still very bad and there were a number of cholera epidemics, including
the famous one where Dr. John Snow linked cholera to polluted water.
In 1861, Pasteur proved that germs cause decay. It was Robert Koch who
linked the germ theory and disease with actual proof in 1878, a few
years after the Second Public Health Act had been passed, but many
people believed that he was right before he proved it. One of the most
important reasons was that in 1867, the vote was given to all male
householders. Before, it had just been the rich that had voted. The
rich lived in the towns, owned houses where disease was kept to a
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