Charts & Graphs

Field Research

Advances in modern medicine during wartime.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815)

Innovation: Evacuation of the wounded from the battlefield

Application: Dominique-Jean Larrey, Napoleon Bonaparte’s surgeon major, employed horse-drawn carriages called “flying ambulances” to transport the otherwise-left-for-dead wounded to treatment stations.

Crimean War (1853–56)

Innovation: Reform of army-hospital hygienics

Application: Florence Nightingale established standards of care, including clean clothing, bathing, and proper ventilation, and lowered the mortality rate of the treated patients from 42 to 2 percent at Scutari Barrack Hospital.

American Civil War (1861–65)

Innovation: Widespread use of chloroform

Application: Field doctors performed 80,000 operations with the anesthetic, reducing pain for wounded and making amputations easier for surgeons.

Franco-Prussian War (1870–71)

Innovation: Widespread use of antiseptics

Application: German surgeons applied Joseph Lister’s new theories on sanitation by cleaning instruments with carbolic acid spray, thus lowering the amputee death rate.

World War I (1914–18)

Innovation: Plastic surgery

Application: Harold Gillies popularized an advanced skin graft for reconstructive surgeries, and his hospital in Kent performed 15,000 operations on 5,000 patients.

World War II (1939–45)

Innovation: Penicillin

Application: The Pfizer Drug Company utilized the deep-tank fermentation process for producing mass quantities of the antibiotic, an effective treatment for a range of deadly bacteria from gangrene to syphilis.