Ancient Israel: Quarantine was stressed in Israelite law, preventing contact with diseased persons and their items, as well as with corpses and carcasses. Diseased garments were burned, and isolation measures put in place for individuals and the household in the case of infectious disease outbreaks.
Ancient Babylon: Everyone's a doctor. The sick were laid out in the street so that passers-by could offer advice.
431 BC: The earliest hospitals are thought to have been established in Sri Lanka. Early hospitals in India were established from 230 BC.
AD 1st C: Ancient hygiene and antiseptics. Aulus Cornelius Celcus of Rome advocated cleanliness, wound-washing and treatment with vinegar and thyme oil, both of which have antiseptic properties. Other early antiseptics included pitch, wine, copper, silver and mercury.
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1840s: Sweet pain relief! Ether was the first anaesthetic to be used during surgery, followed by chloroform, then nitrous oxide. Local anaesthetic was introduced in 1877. However, longer and more complicated operations without sufficient knowledge of infection or antisepsis meant that the infection rate was very high.
1847: Handwashing. Dr Semmelweis, working at the Vienna Maternity Hospital, made the link between the prevalence of puerperal (childbed) fever and dirty hands. He ordered doctors, nurses and midwives to wash their hands in chlorinated water before contact with each patient. Despite a dramatic decrease in the death rate he was ridiculed for many years.
1860s: Antiseptic. Dr Lister introduced the use of antiseptic in English hospitals. At this time, approximately 50% of hospital patients died due to infection after surgery. Lister used carbolic acid solutions to soak wound dressings, spray on surgical instruments, and spray on the wound during surgery. 1939-1945: Dakin's solution containing sodium hypochlorite was first used using World War II as an antiseptic to treat infected wounds.
1880: The autoclave. Latvian surgeon Ernst von Bergmann introduced steam sterilization of surgical instruments.
Late 1800s: Pathogens isolated. German doctor Robert Koch proved that microscopic organisms cause disease, isolating the organisms which caused anthrax and tuberculosis.
Today, knowledge about the causes of infection, use of antiseptic, anaesthetic and post-surgical pain relief makes health care a much less terrifying prospect.