Why were people in the 1800s smart about engineering while dumb about medicine?
September 16, 2004 6:44 AM Subscribe
Why were people in olden days so smart about some things, but so dense about others? (more inside)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to society & culture (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Specifically: How is it that people knew enough to build huge ships that could sail thousands of miles, navigating by the stars, and enough to engineer huge, ornate buildings that would outlive them by hundreds of years, but it took until the late 19th century to figure out that splashing a little alcohol in a wound, and on surgical instruments, could reduce infection? How could no one have discovered this? They had alcohol -- wouldn't you think just through blind luck or trial and error, over millions of incidents of wound treatment, they would have uncovered this? Why was "cleaning a wound" such a foreign concept to them? They cleaned clothes, floors, their own bodies, etc. but nobody noticed that a clean surgical environment had a salutory effect?