The Fight against Infectious Disease
Infectious disease has been a major cause of disfigurement, pain and death over time. For thousands of years the cause of such illnesses was not fully understood. Societies had a wide range of explanations for these killers and subsequently had mixed results at combating them.
The eighteen century saw the beginning of a revolution in combating these diseases. Ideas, often taken from the east, were adapted with success. These were not always fully understood, though the outcome of prevention did become clear. From Jenner’s first, widely opposed, uses of a vaccine against smallpox through to modern research, there has been a steady stream of successes in the fight against infectious disease.
Below you will find the stories behind some of the best known successes. This unit concentrates largely on the Industrial Revolution and period up to 1900. Since then, some diseases have been eradicated. Smallpox, once a world wide killer to be feared, is no longer something to be afraid of.
|Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccination||Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccination
Discover how Jenner took a risk and became world famous for developing a vaccine for Smallpox. Now eradicated, the vaccine was widely opposed at first. Teachers Resource: Source analysis exercise, ideal for GCSE History classes.
|Louis Pasteur and Germ Theory||Louis Pasteur and Germ Theory
Germ Theory. Arguably the biggest scientific breakthrough in the development of medical knowledge. Find out how Pasteur achieved it here.
|Robert Koch||Robert Koch
The founder of modern bacteriology, Koch identified diseases such as Tuberculosis, Cholera and Anthrax. Discover the impact of his work here.
|Vaccination: a History||Vaccination: a History
Vaccines are commonplace now but are relatively new to the western world. Explore the origins and development of vaccination in this unit.
|Gerhard Domagk and Prontosil||Gerhard Domagk and Prontosil
Ever taken an antibiotic? You have Gerhard Domagk to thank for your treatment. 1939 Nobel Prize winner for medicine for this breakthrough.
|Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin||Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin
A tiny mistake that led to a revolutionary chance discovery. Discover how Fleming discovered Penicillin and the struggles he had developing it.
|Florey, Chain and the development of Penicillin||Florey, Chain and the development of Penicillin
See how a team led by Florey and Chain took up the mantle of developing Penicillin and turning it into a staple of many medicine cabinets.
|Penicillin: an accident?||Penicillin: an accident?
Was the success of Penicillin an accident? An assessment of the different factors that led to the wonder drug having an impact.
|Paul Ehrlich and the Magic Bullet||Paul Ehrlich and the Magic Bullet
Ehrlich devised a revolutionary combination of biology, chemistry and medicine. Using dyes, he traced the way that illnesses fought the body. The results included the invention of chemotherapy.
Selected timeline of vaccines against infectious diseases
1797 – Smallpox
1879 – Cholera
1885 – Rabies
1890 – Tetanus
1896 – Typhoid Fever
1897 – Bubonic Plague
1921 – Tubercolosis
1923 – Diptheria
1945 – Influenza
1952 – Polio
1954 – Anthrax
1963 – Measles
1967 – Rubella
1974 – Chicken Pox
Other vaccines were introduced in the period selected above. Many have also been introduced since 1974. The sole reason for stopping at that date is purely as there is a rough plan to do something about vaccinations and changes to them over the course of my lifetime. As I was born at the end of 1973, the Chicken Pox vaccine seemed a logical place to stop.
Vaccines being introduced does not necessarily mean that they are widely available or accessible. Having one approved does not mean it is on the shelf ready for distribution and use across the whole of a country. As an example, the last of those vaccines came into being before my first birthday. I had chicken pox when I was 5 or 6 so presume that I had not been vaccinated against it by that time.
Schoolshistory home – History teachers resources – Medical History Timelines – Alexander Fleming – Florey and Chain develop Penicillin – Gerhard Domagk and Prontosil – Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccine – Louis Pasteur and Germ Theory – Robert Koch – The development of Vaccinations – Was Penicillin an accident? – Paul Ehrlich and the Magic Bullet
Medicine Through time – Resources for Medicine Through Time – Prehistoric Medicine – Ancient Egyptian Medicine – Ancient Greek Medicine – Medicine in the Roman Empire – Medieval Medicine – Renaissance Medicine – Public Health in the Industrial Revolution – Fight against infectious disease – Modern Medicine