Chronology

Full chronology version

1793

Dominique Jean Larrey, Napoleon's chief physician, develops ambulances volantes, horse-drawn wagons to transport injured soldiers from the field during battle.

1796

Edward Jenner carries out the first successful smallpox vaccination.

1804

German chemist Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner isolates morphine from opium.

1818

British obstetrician James Blundell performs the first successful human blood transfusion.

Glass bottle of quinine sulphate (1860-1910)

1820

Quinine, a drug used to treat malaria and babesiosis, is first extracted from the bark of a cinchona tree.

1829

French teacher Louis Braille publishes the first book about his raised-dot tactile writing system for blind people.

1830 - 1832

A major cholera epidemic affects Europe, killing over 50,000 people in Britain.

1832

Codeine - a powerful and relatively safe-to-use analgesic extracted from morphine - is discovered by French chemist Pierre Robiquet.

Poster with a cartoon depicting the effects of the Poor Law on a workhouse (c.1834)

1834

The Poor Law Amendment Act is passed by the British Parliament, a controversial law that restricts the availability of poverty relief to workhouses.

1840

The Vaccination Act makes free vaccination available in Britain.

1840

Diethyl ether is widely used as an anaesthetic.

1844

The first YMCA is founded in London by George Williams in a bid to provide healthy activities for young men in the city.

1847

The use of chloroform as an anaesthetic is demonstrated in London by Scottish obstetrician, James Y. Simpson.

1850

Florence Nightingale spends three months of training with Lutheran deaconesses in Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein. Her first published work, on the treatment of the sick at the institution, is issued anonymously later in the year.

The first building to house the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania (c.1850s)

1850

Foundation of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the first medical college in the world to grant degrees to women.

1851

Plaster of Paris is first used for medical casts by Dutch army surgeon Antonius Mathijsen.

1851

Foundation of the Free Cancer Hospital in London (now known as the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust), the first specialist cancer treatment and research hospital in the world.

1852

Amid concerns over the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and the potential threat from Russia, tensions grow between Russia and France over the status of Christian minorities in Ottoman territories.

1853

Russia occupies the Ottoman Black Sea principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In response, the Ottoman sultan declares war on Russia - effectively launching the Crimean War.

Destruction of the Ottoman fleet at Sinop as painted by Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900)

1853

The Battle of Sinop takes place when the Russian fleet destroys a patrol squadron of Ottoman ships while they were in port, causing outrage in Britain and France, who send their warships into the Black Sea in support of the Ottomans.

1853

The syringe is invented by Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood.

1853

Florence Nightingale is appointed Superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in London.

1854

Britain and France declare war on Russia in support of the Ottoman Empire.

William Howard Russell during the Crimean War (c.1854)

1854

Journalist William Howard Russell is sent by The Times to the Crimea as one of the world's first war correspondents. His accounts would prove influential in raising awareness of the conditions endured by troops.

1854

The Battle of Balaclava takes place during the Allied siege of Sebastopol. It is best remembered for the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade into Russian guns.

1854

Florence Nightingale travels to the Crimea with 38 nurses. Appalled by the poor medical facilities available at Scutari, she writes to the The Times exhorting the government to find a solution.

1854

During an outbreak of cholera in London, physician John Snow challenges the popular miasma theory that disease is spread by "bad air", suggesting instead that contagion is caused by contaminated water supplies.

1855

The British establish the Grand Crimean Central Railway to support the siege of Sebastopol. The railway was used to run what is thought to be the world's first hospital train, transporting the sick and injured from Balaclava.

Mary Seacole in London (c.1873)

1855

British-Jamaican nurse, Mary Seacole, establishes her 'British Hotel' in the Crimea to provide food and nursing for sick and convalescent soldiers.

1855

The Russians abandon Sebastopol after a year of siege.

1855

The British government commissions Isambard Kingdom Brunel to develop a prefabricated hospital to be shipped to the Crimea and assembled there. Set up at Renkioi, the hospital treats 1,300 soldiers and has a lower death rate than other military hospitals.

1855

The British Sanitary Commission is sent to Scutari at the request of Florence Nightingale.

1855

Florence Nightingale becomes very ill after contracting what is thought to have been Crimean fever.

Florence Nightingale tending injured soldiers at Scutari (1854)

1856

The summer death rate among soldiers at Scutari falls from 40% to 2.2% as a result of improvements to hygiene under Florence Nightingale's administration.

1856

The Crimean War is ended by the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

1856

The Nightingale Fund for Nursing charitable organisation is founded in Britain to commemorate Nightingale's work in the Crimean War.

1857

The germ theory of the spread of disease is developed by Louis Pasteur.

Florence Nightingale's diagram showing the causes of mortality in the Army in the East (1857)

1857

At Nightingale's instigation, a royal commission for the reform of the Army Medical Service is established. She prepares her own report into army mortality but it is never published.

1858

Rudolf Virchow's Cellular Pathology is published, leading to the widespread recognition of cell theory and the development of modern pathology.

A four-wheeled ambulance carriage as used by Florence Nightingale

1858

Dr I. Moses of New York proposes a design for a four-wheeled ambulance wagon to carry wounded soldiers away from the battlefield. Similar ambulances would be first used during the American Civil War.

1859

Nightingale outlines her philosophy in Suggestions for Thought, an exposé on religion, and publishes Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing.

The Battle of Solferino by Carlo Bossoli, reproduced in The International Red Cross Committee in Geneva, 1863-1943

1859

Swiss businessman Henry Dunant conceives the idea for the Red Cross Society while organising the relief effort during the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino.

1859

The National Hospital for the Paralyzed and Epileptic is founded in London as the first hospital in the world to specialise exclusively in the outpatient treatment of epilepsy.

1860

Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th President of the United States.

1860

The Nightingale Training School is founded at St Thomas' Hospital in London for the training of nurses.

1860

HMS Melbourne and HMS Mauritius, the first hospital ships equipped with medical facilities, provide services to the British expedition to China.

Photograph of one of the Bradford brothers taken after his enlistment in the Union Army (c.1863)

1861

The American Civil War breaks out following the secession of eleven slave-holding southern states to form the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis as their President.

1861

Trauma surgeon Dr Samuel D. Gross produces A Manual of Military Surgery to provide guidance on battlefield surgery for doctors during the war.

1861

Death of Sidney Herbert, a confidant and supporter of Florence Nightingale who worked with her for sanitation reform and was instrumental to her fame.

1861

The United States Sanitary Commission is established.

1861

Dorothea Dix is appointed Superintendent of Female Nurses in the North. She is later awarded two national flags in recognition of her service.

1861

After the First Battle of Bull Run, Sally Louisa Tompkins opens a hospital for soldiers in Richmond, VA, later becoming the only woman officially commissioned in the Confederate Army.

1861

James Edward Hanger, the first recorded amputee of the American Civil War, designs a new prosthetic limb and is commissioned by the Confederate government to develop prostheses for veterans.

1862

Though there is no conclusive victory, the Battle of Antietam proves pivotal for the Union.

1862

French surgeon Auguste Nélaton invents a porcelain-tipped probe to locate bullets lodged in gunshot wounds. His device is used to successfully treat Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi.

1862

After being struck and captured by the Union Army, the Confederate steamboat Red Rover is converted and relaunched as the U.S. Navy's first hospital ship.

1862

New York surgeon Gurdon Buck performs pioneering facial reconstruction on a badly wounded Union soldier during the American Civil War. He later becomes known as the father of plastic surgery.

1863

Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the Confederacy, though not in the Northern states.

L. Prang & Co. print of Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup (1887)

1863

The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest engagement of the entire Civil War, takes place and results in a decisive Union victory.

1863

Opening of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, Hampshire - one of the first purpose-built military hospitals in Britain.

1863

The report of the Royal Sanitary Commission into Indian sanitation is issued, influenced by Florence Nightingale's detailed statistical research.

Inaugural meeting of the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded (1863)

1863

The International Committee for Relief to the Wounded is founded in Geneva by Henry Dunant, Gustave Moynier, Louis Appia, Théodore Maunoir and Guillaume-Henri Dufour. At an international conference later that year, the committee adopts the red cross on a white background as its emblem and establishes national committees for the relief of military wounded.

1864

At a conference in Geneva, representatives of 12 states sign the first Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field" - the first international treaty to guarantee the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers.

1864

Enactment of the first Contagious Diseases Act in Britain, which forces women suspected of prostitution near army camps and naval ports to undergo regular physical examinations for venereal disease.

1865

Clara Barton establishes the Missing Soldiers' Office in Washington, D.C.

1865

By the end of the American Civil War, more than 80,000 Union soldiers have died of dysentery.

1865

Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathiser. He is succeeded by Andrew Johnson.

1865

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery, is ratified by Congress.

1865

At the invitation of General Sherman, Mary Ann Bickerdyke rides at the head of the Grand Review of the Armies to mark the end of the Civil War. Supported by the Sanitary Commission, "Mother" Bickerdyke built 300 hospitals during the war and treated the wounded on 19 battlefields.

J. McKnight, the second patient to have survived a simultaneous triple amputation performed by James Buckner Luckie (c.1870)

1865

James Buckner Luckie performs the first successful triple amputation in the United States.

Portrait of Joseph Lister (c.1855)

1867

British surgeon Joseph Lister, a pioneer in the use of antiseptic chemicals to prevent the infection of wounds, publishes his influential paper Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery.

1867

Nightingale is invited to serve on the board for the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Although she initially declines the invitation, she joins the Society the following year.

1867

The first International Conference of the Red Cross is held in Geneva and is attended by nine governments and sixteen National Committees.

1868

Ellen Ranyard, founder of the London Bible and Domestic Female Mission, establishes the first district nursing scheme.

1868

After Sir Henry Parkes requests Nightingale-trained nursing staff in New South Wales, Florence Nightingale sends Lucy Osburn and four Nightingale nurses to Sydney Infirmary.

1869

The second International Conference of the Red Cross is held in Berlin. Further conferences take place in Geneva (1884), Karlsruhe (1887), Rome (1892) and Vienna (1897).

Soldiers displaying amputations in the lower extremities at Armory Square Hospital, Washington, D.C (c.1862-64)

1870 - 1883

Publication of The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65, a six-volume compendium of military medicine during the American Civil War.

1870

Prussian military surgeon Friedrich von Esmarch introduces formalised training in "erste Hilfe" (first aid) for soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War.

Cover of a diary produced by the British Red Cross Society during the First World War (c.1916)

1870

The British Red Cross Society is formed under its original name as the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War.

1871

Nightingale publishes Introductory Notes on Lying-in Hospitals and Proposals for the Training of Midwives.

1872

Nightingale is awarded the Prussian Cross of Merit for her role as an advisor during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).

1873

Linda Richards becomes one of the first trained nurses in America when she graduates from the New England Hospital for Women and Children Training School for Nurses.

1873

The first nursing school in the United States to be based on Florence Nightingale's principles of nursing is established at Bellevue Hospital, New York City.

1876

British nurse Sister Henrietta Stockdale establishes the first training school for nurses in South Africa at Carnarvon Hospital, Kimberley.

1876

The International Committee for Relief to the Wounded becomes the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

1876

The Nightingale Fund begins supporting the training of district nurses.

1877

The St. John Ambulance Association is established by the Venerable Order of Saint John to provide instruction in first aid to industrial workers.

Portrait of Mary Eliza Mahoney (c.1880-90)

1879

Mary Eliza Mahoney becomes the first African-American professionally-trained nurse.

1879

Scottish surgeon William Macewen becomes the first to successfully locate (and then remove) a brain tumour through clinical examination.

1880

German surgeon Ludwig Rehn carries out the first thyroidectomy.

The Battle of Majuba Hill (1881) as depicted in the Illustrated London News (1889)

1880 - 1881

The First Anglo-Boer War is fought between Britain and the South African Republic. The conflict ends in March 1881 with the defeat of the British and the signing of the Pretoria Convention.

1881

Louis Pasteur develops a vaccine for anthrax.

1881

The Royal Army Nursing Corps is established, the first major step towards a regular, uniformed Army nursing service. However, nursing numbers are restricted and no provisions are made for increasing them during major conflicts.

Advertisement for the American Red Cross Society in The Red Cross Magazine, vol. 12, no. 5-9 (June 1917)

1881

The American Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton.

1882

The first vaccine for rabies is developed by Louis Pasteur. In the same year, Robert Koch discovers the bacillus responsible for tuberculosis, but is ultimately unable to produce an effective treatment.

Portrait of Robert Koch (c.1905)

1883

Robert Koch identifies Vibrio cholerae as the bacterium responsible for cholera, paving the way for the development of vaccines.

1883

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck launches the first public healthcare service in modern history through the enactment of the Sickness Insurance Law.

1884

Cocaine is first used as a local anaesthetic for eye surgery by Austrian ophthalmologist Karl Koller.

Linda Richards in Japan (1911)

1885

Linda Richards helps establish Japan's first nurse training programme at Doshisha Hospital, Kyoto.

1886

The first regular nursing training institution in India is established in Bombay.

1886

First publication of The Nightingale, the first nursing journal in the United States.

1886

Sophia B. Jones opens the first nursing training programme specifically for African-Americans at Spelman College, Georgia.

1886

Antifebrin is introduced into medical practice as an analgesic.

1887

The blown-glass contact lens is developed by German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick.

1887

The British Nurses' Association is founded with the aim of establishing a national register of qualified nurses. Florence Nightingale voices her opposition to what she considers to be a flawed registration system.

Cover of The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review (Feb. 1918)

1888

First publication of The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review in Buffalo, New York.

1889

Johns Hopkins Hospital is founded.

1890

Emil von Behring discovers a diphtheria antitoxin.

1890

German surgeon Themistocles Glück develops early joint replacements using ivory.

Advertisement for Miller Surgeons' Gloves in The Modern Hospital, vol. X, no. 1 (Jan 1918)

1890

The Goodyear Rubber Company produce the first latex medical gloves at the instigation of William Halsted, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

1891

African-American surgeon Daniel Hale Williams founds Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the first non-segregated hospital and medical training school in the United States.

1895

X-rays are produced and detected by German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen.

1895

Norwegian surgeon Axel Cappelen performs the first successful cardiac surgery.

1896

The first vaccine for typhoid fever is developed.

Canadian Red Cross Society postcard (1914-18)

1896

Foundation of the Canadian Red Cross as an affiliate of the British Red Cross Society.

1897

The first vaccine for bubonic plague is developed.

1898

The Spanish-American War takes place as a result of United States involvement in the Cuban War of Independence.

Marie Curie inspecting a motorised ambulance fitted with X-ray equipment (1918)

1898

Transportable X-ray machines are used for the first time in the Greco-Turkish War, allowing for bullets and shrapnel to be located and removed from injured soldiers more easily and reducing the need for amputation.

1898

The Royal Army Medical Corps is created, improving efficiency by administering the delivery of military medical services under a single organisation.

1899

German chemicals firm Bayer develop and begin production of aspirin.

1899

Signing of the First Hague Convention, the first multilateral treaty to address the conduct of warfare.

1899

Foundation of the International Council of Nurses.

Stereograph depicting a nurse treating a patient during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1900)

1899 - 1902

The Second Anglo-Boer War begins when the South African Republic and Orange Free State declare war on the British Empire. Nurses from Canada, Australia and New Zealand travel to South Africa to serve as private citizens or with the British nursing forces.

1899

The first motorised ambulance enters service at the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.

1900

American surgeon Charles H. Cargile pioneers the use of Cargile membrane in abdominal surgery.

1900 - 1902

During the Second Anglo-Boer War, concentration camps are used by the British to intern Boer women and children. 26,000 prisoners die due to inadequate nutrition, shelter and healthcare.