Page Navigation - Go to: site index | start of page content | links to sections in this story | links to related material | story theme menu
MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:Science meets medicine

scene:Science meets medicine


Louis Pasteur (1822-95) in his laboratory. Pasteur’s work in bacteriology profoundly changed medical and surgical practice. picture zoom © Musee Pasteur

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, European medicine became far more powerful by allying itself with emerging scientific techniques and technologies. Germ theory, bacteriology and chemical analysis joined new diagnostic instruments and drug therapies in changing clinical practice. At the same time, doctors and surgeons fought to establish themselves as professional groups, distancing themselves from traditional and imported medical systems.

For the patient, medical experiences changed dramatically. More accurate information about what was wrong, powerful new drugs and less painful procedures all improved patient care. However the proliferation of new instruments and diagnostic tests also meant that the individual’s own perceptions of their condition carried less weight with doctors, who favoured more objective measures of illness and disease.

Clinical medicine adopted the ideas and practices being developed away from hospitals in specialist laboratories. New ideas in science provided powerful new tools for doctors and surgeons, but they could also challenge practitioners' authority. Some of them felt that the practice of medicine was, and should remain, an ‘art’. They argued against an over-reliance on machines and instruments and instead put their trust in the perceptions of the practitioner. The question of whether accurate diagnosis is a purely scientific process or relies on the skill of the individual practitioner has continued to this day.

Resource Descriptions

Louis Pasteur (1822-95) in his laboratory. Pasteur’s work in bacteriology profoundly changed medical and surgical practice.
GO BACK TO THEME GO BACK TO THEME
Scene
Icon
Icon
Object
Object
Object
Object
Object
Object
Learning Module