Medical Progress – the Contribution of WWI

During WWI from 1914 to 1918, approximately eight million soldiers were killed, 20 million were retired, and seven million were listed as missing. This is the number of casualties caused by the first war wounds in military history, which is more than the number of deaths and injuries caused by disease and hunger. Partly because the weapons used at the time were more devastating, and the other part was due to advances in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

Besides the trauma caused by cannons, mortars and aerial bombardments, the more attention is paid to the growing mental illness on the battlefield such as “shell-shock“.

In WWI, a large-scale encirclement of trenches was carried out. For the soldiers, the world in the trench was different from the past. The soldiers had to endure not only the humid environment and the physical pain, but also to face the the smell of corpse and the fear of death. Witnessing the death of the companions around them, even with the guilty of survival may cause psychological Trauma. 

In fact, the classification of shell-shock as a mental illness was a breakthrough at the time, because in the past, the treatment on the battlefield was mostly based on physiological treatment, while mental illness was rarely mentioned. When shell-shock was confirmed as a mental illness, it not only expanded the scope of application of psychology, but also allowed it later to be treated in accordance with the treatment mode of shell shock, for example PTSD .

John Elkins, the British soldier who suffered from shell-shock.

John Elkins was a British soldier who had wounded for several times during WWI. In addition to his physical wounds, he was suffering from shell-shock since he was awarded 21 days Field Punishment No.1 , which placed him in harms’ way. For unknown reason he had attracted such punishment, it was a serious offence that could easily have been related to his mental condition i.e.” shell-shock”.

Another initiative was nothing more than “Skin Flap Surgery”. The first example was the largest naval battle in World War I – the Battle of Jutland, there was a British Navy who suffered from serious facial injuries, including the loss of upper and lower eyelids, and he was cured by the Skin Flap Surgery.

Skin flap surgery were used during WWI. 
Heroin is used to treat cough during the WWI.

Although it was a nightmare for people over thirty countries during WWI, but the most significant advances in medicine were born under the oppression of war. It might be a few things we could be thankful for.


Citer ce billet
chiayu (2018, 12 novembre). Medical Progress – the Contribution of WWI. Sortir de la guerre (1919-1930). Consulté le 16 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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