Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!


19th-century surgery

Antiseptics and blood transfusions

For infection - antiseptics

  • 1847: Ignaz Semmelweiss (Hungary) cut the death rate in his maternity ward by making the doctors wash their hands in calcium chloride solution before treating their patients.
  • 1854: Standards of hospital cleanliness and nursing care rose rapidly under the influence of Florence Nightingale.
  • 1865: Joseph Lister (Scotland) - basing his ideas on Pasteur's Germ Theory cut the death rate among his patients from 46 to 15 per cent by spraying instruments and bandages with a 1-in-20 solution of carbolic acid.
  • 1890: Beginnings of aseptic surgery - surgeons started boiling their instruments to sterilise them - WS Halstead (America) started using rubber gloves when operating - German surgeons started to use face masks.

For blood loss - blood transfusions

  • 1901: Karl Landsteiner (Austria) - discovered blood groups. Transfusions had been tried before but usually killed the patient because of clotting. Matching blood groups stopped this happening.
  • 1913: Richard Lewisohn discovered that sodium citrate stopped blood clotting during an operation.
  • 1938: The National Blood Transfusion Service was set up in Britain.

Back to Modern medicine index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.