Medical History

Elizabeth Blackwell, America's First Female M.D.

It's not a story of a person with a childhood dream of pursuing a career that wasn't available to them. Dr. Blackwell had no interest in medicine as a child. But she paved the way for women who came after her and changed the face of medicine in the U.S. Read the show notes for this episode here.

Avicenna

You may never have heard of him, but Avicenna was one of the first, and probably the most influential, Islamic philosopher-scientists. He's listed among the great philosophers in Dante's Inferno and is mentioned in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

Edward Jenner, Father of Vaccines

Smallpox has been around longer than recorded history. It killed royalty, shifted the tides of battles, and was so terrifying that many religions have gods, saints and martyrs associated with it. And Edward Jenner gets the credit for changing all that.

Encephalitis Lethargica

From 1916 to about 1927, a strange epidemic spread around the world. It caused unusual symptoms, from drastic behavior changes to a deep, prolonged sleep that could last for months. Between 20 and 40 percent of people who caught the disease died.

Alan L. Hart was a doctor, writer, and prominent figure in the fields of radiology and tuberculosis control. He was also one of the first people in the U.S. to have surgery in an effort to transition to a different gender than the one he had been assigned at birth.

Phineas Gage

In 1848, Phineas Gage experienced a catastrophic brain injury and survived -- though altered -- for more than 11 years. Over time, he morphed into one of the world's most famous case studies in how damage to the brain can affect behavior.

Selman Waksman and the Streptomycin Controversy

An accomplished bacteriologist, Selman Waksman and his students and colleagues isolated many new antibiotics in the 1940s, including streptomycin and neomycin, earning him the nickname Father of Antibiotics.

Johann Konrad Dippel was born in 1673 at Frankenstein Castle. Originally a theology student, Dippel began dabbling in chemistry, medicine and alchemy. Today he's remembered for creating a panacea that was used on a variety of ailments. How did he do it?

Dentist Horace Wells set up shop in Hartford in 1836, before the discovery of anasthesia. At an exhibition in 1844 he became certain that nitrous oxide could revolutionize medicine. He tried to demonstrate his findings... but things didn't go as planned.

Women weren't initially welcome in the Civil War armies, but thousands eventually ended up serving as nurses. We feature five here. Listen in to learn about nurses like Sally Louisa Tompkins, whose hospital became one of the most successful of the war.