Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Old Time Medical Advancements - Part One - Cleanliness Practices and Stethoscopes

Thanks to Melnick Medical Museum for the surgical room image

Part One - Cleanliness Practices and Stethoscopes

The eighteen hundreds saw many advances in the healing arts.

One practice that has affected so many generations since came from England. Influenced by the Frenchman Louis Pasteur’s work, Doctor Joseph Lister began looking for a means to sterilize wounds. A common belief of the time was that exposure to ‘bad air’ caused infections in wounds. 

Dr. Lister didn’t believe that. After seeing that fields irrigated with sewage waste then sprayed with phenol (also known as carbolic acid) had no ill effect on the livestock that grazed it later, he began experimenting with the solution.

In August 1865, the doctor applied a piece of lint dipped in carbolic acid solution onto the wound of a boy who had a compound fracture at Glasgow Infirmary. No infection developed, and the child recovered. Lister advanced the movement toward modern surgical cleanliness practices by publishing six articles from March to July in 1867 in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal still in publication today.

In addition to cleaning wounds, he pioneered sterilizing instruments and having assistants spray carbolic acid over the operating room. He instituted that surgeons wash their hands before and after performing any procedure, always wearing new gloves for each operation.

Modesty brought about a tool that no doctor nurse or paramedic is ever without today.

In 1816 French doctor, Rene Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris invented the stethoscope. Uncomfortable with putting his ear on the chests of the female patients in order to heart their heartbeat----the practice of the day----he used a rolled up a piece of paper instead. 

Like an old ear trumpet used by the hard of hearing in those days, the paper turned into a wooden tube Dr. Laennec called a stethoscope. (Stetho + scope “chest-scope”)

Several advances by other doctors of his invention came over the years, including a single flexible tube attached to better earpieces, standard by mid-century.

Then in 1852, George Philip Cammann perfected the design that uses two tubes that fit in both ears that is now the modern standard.

I've been having so much fun researching medical practices and advancements in equipment for my upcoming book A Bride for Jacob in the Nursing the Hearts collection series and was sure you'd find it as interesting! 

My next release is Bitter Honey, book 22 of the awesome, ongoing Lockets and Lace Collection series and my third contribution in as many years! Don't miss the Lockets and Lace COVER REVEAL CELEBRATION on February 24th at our Facebook group, the Sweet Americana Book Club 


Bio: Praying her story gives God glory, hybrid author Caryl McAdoo writes in several genres, including Biblical fiction, contemporary Christian romance, young adults and mid-grade, and her most popular historical Christian romance----her family saga series are readers' favorites. Caryl's next book launching in March will be her fiftieth title published.

She and Ron, husband of fifty-plus years share four children and eighteen grandsugars, life's biggest blessings according to Caryl. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County, in the far northeast corner of Texas with five dogs and a plethora of barn cats.

Caryl loves hearing from readers! Contact her through any of these (following, subscribing, and liking):  website   Amazon   BookBub   Facebook   


  1. Hi Caryl, I enjoyed reading your post! My daughter and my son in law are both R.N.'s , and oh yes, lots of washing hands and cleaning everything goof for sure! Actually our son in law just retired . Thank you for sharing your post. Your new book in your series sounds like a very good read. I Love love family sagas. And I love to garden. Have a Great day! God Bless you my friend.

  2. Very interesting, Caryl. I wish Dr. Lister had been a few years earlier so the time period would fit with my books.