World War I: Revelations For Medicine

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We have been healing since the first time man walked the earth. Dressing injuries, fighting off disease and infection. It has always been human instinct to eliminate our pain. In nature, medicine is evolutionary. It is essential that it adapts and overcomes the maladies that plague this world. But never had medicine taken a larger leap forward than during the events of the First World War.

The global bloodshed had numerous nicknames at the time. The Great War. The War of the Nations. But perhaps the most fitting was the War to End All Wars. The original meaning of this name had been lost. In 1914, it was used as a symbol of hope. Now it appears cynical, heavy with scorn. However, even in the darkest times of the world, there was still one beacon of hope. Something we have relied on for thousands of years. Medicine. Great Britain and France were leading in this field, quick to establish base hospitals to sustain their forces. The U.S. followed suit, setting up facilities near their soldiers (Campbell). The hospitals all served an average of 10,000 soldiers during their time active (Kovac). In these hospitals, history was being made. Revolutionary advances in radiology, surgical operations, pain medication, paramedic medicine, and even physiologic conditions were made in the throes of global-scale battle. The medicals innovations during World War I have forever revolutionized modern medicine.

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Radiology today employs the use of electromagnetic waves to see inside the body. The process is now known as an X-ray, the name originating from German physicist Wilhelm Rntgen referring to radiation as an unknown variable or X (Panchbai). Before this innovation, the only way to see inside of the body was through surgery, which was most often fatal to the patient. Bullets and other foreign objects were therefore inaccessible to doctors, which caused a myriad of preventable deaths. The electromagnetic waves utilized by the new X-ray machine helped doctors discover fatal wounds quickly and allowed them more time to work on a patient. This was essential for military medicine because the majority of wounds were caused by lodged bullets, knives, and other weapons. But Rntgen wasnt the only scientist offering his services for the war effort.

Madame Marie Curie was also hard at work, establishing her name as a renowned chemist and physicist at the time of World War I. She is attributed with the discoveries of the radioactive (a term which she coined) elements radium and polonium.

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