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History

19th-century knowledge about the body and disease

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There was a general atmosphere of scientific research and advance throughout the 19th century, and this was reflected in the fast build-up of medical knowledge. Pasteur's discovery that germs cause disease was a crucial turning point.

Knowledge about the body

Knowledge about the body increased greatly in the 19th century:

  1. William Beaumont (America: 1822) studied the digestive system of Alexis St Martin, a Canadian who had an open hole into his stomach.
  2. Theodor Schwann (Germany: 1839) realised that animal matter was made up of cells, not 'humours'. This was the vital breakthrough of knowledge that at last destroyed belief in the old 'humoral' pathology of the Greeks.
  3. Henry Gray (Scotland: 1858) wrote 'Gray's Anatomy', which had over 1,000 illustrations. Many people bought a copy to own at home. After the 1870s, pupils started studying anatomy in schools.
  4. Starling and Bayliss (England: 1902) discovered the first hormone.
  5. Casimir Funk (Poland: 1912) discovered the first vitamins, and realised that some diseases were caused simply by poor diet.

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