15/11/2017
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Medicine in Wartime: Aberdeen's Medical Innovators - new exhibition in Aberdeen

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The role of a small group of doctors, nurses and surgeons who used their medical skills in wartime is explored in a free exhibition at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen.

 Journals, letters, instruments and inventions from the Special Collections and Museum Collections at the University of Aberdeen evoke a period in military medical history when an environment of devastation and death facilitated advances in medical science.

Among the items on display are:

  • case notes of the young ship's surgeon, Robert Wilson, who performed operations on injured servicemen before the availability of anaesthetic
  • a the first First Aid guide for soldiers, published posthumously by Surgeon Major Peter Shepherd, highlight the challenging medical conditions of conflicts in the early 1800s

In later years, an understanding of hygiene, bacteriology and antiseptic surgery by innovators such as James McGrigor, Alexander Ogston and Henry Gray helped dramatically to improve the survival rate of the British armed forces.

Ground-breaking medicine

The bravery of battlefield medics was matched by the selflessness of medical inventors such as James Mackenzie Davidson whose research in the dangerous field of radiography gave military and civilian surgeons new devices to use in the treatment of the wounded.

Non-surgical practices were also given trials in wartime. Amelia Laws' use of massage, and a system of nutritional health in rationing devised by John Boyd Orr, and practiced in a unique way as a POW by David Lubbock all found the experience of war to be an opportunity for development.

Exhibition details

Medicine in Wartime: Aberdeen's Medical Innovators is at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen until 18 March 2018 and entry is free. Opening times during term time (may vary during holidays):

Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri: 10am - 5pm

Thursday: 10am - 7pm

Saturday: 10am - 4pm

Sunday: 11am - 4pm

For more information, tel: 01224 272000; website.

(images copyright University of Aberdeen)

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