Medicine in the 19th and 20th century was still not very good, as in previous eras. But during this time period, many inventions and technologies were made and thought of.  Although the whole concept of personal hygiene was still not really cured, some advances in learning about it were made.  Many strange medicines and “cures” were invented and later discarded during this era. In this era medicine really started to develop, unlike the previous two eras of history.

Surgery was still a huge problem in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was pretty much still a failing operation.  The lack of hygiene with tools, doctors, patients, and surgery rooms led to disease and a lot of death with surgery patients.  Another problem with surgery in this time was the lack of anesthetics.  Doctors could perform no deep cutting surgeries on patients without too much kicking and screaming.  Any surgery to an organ was out of the question, and many patients died from the pain when operations like this were attempted.

However, a surgeon named Robert Liston started experimenting with ether, and he discovered that it worked quite well as an anesthetic.  A Scottish doctor named James Simpson led to the widespread use of chloroform as an anesthetic.  Now that the anesthetics part of surgery was down, all that was needed was a way to stop the deaths from infection. And a surgeon names Joseph Lister did just that.  His experiments with carbolic acid proved that it was an incredible bacteria killer, and he implemented it, lowering the death rate by infection by a tremendous amount.

Many strange cures for diseases were implemented in these eras. For example, cocaine was used as a pain killer because, frankly, it worked, and doctors didn’t know otherwise. It was used as a “tooth drop” and sold on the street to buyers along with another now illegal drug, opium. Mercury and lead were also used as healing tools, only later did doctors discover how harmful they were to the body.

These eras were pretty solid stepping stones for medicine, with huge breakthroughs in the fields of surgery, bacteria, and anesthetics.  however, doctors still didn’t realize the long term effects to the body of some of the medications they prescribed.  All in all, this was the larges step for medicine so far, but the late 20th century had some incredible breakthroughs that led to the state of medicine and drugs that we have now.

http://web.uvic.ca/vv/student/medicine/medicine19c.htm

http://library.thinkquest.org/15569/hist-9.html

it won’t let me post the image, but here is the link for it.  basically this image is an ad for cocaine “tooth drops”, one of the quite strange cures developed by doctors in this era.