Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 18th Century Medicine

Medicine in the 18th Century


In the days before sulphonamide and penicillin, medications were limited in the treatment of disease and infection. Certainly analgesics were important - willow bark contains salicylic acid (aspirin) and laudanum (tincture of opium) was always effective. Tonics were undoubtedly useful in a time when nutrition was poorly understood and vitamin deficiencies were widespread. But treating disease was largely a matter of faith and hope.

Pharmacopeia, or books of medicinal recipes, were a source of that hope and while some of the recipes were unpleasant (consider, for instance, snail water) some would have helped on most would not harm. Two of the most important were Thomas Fuller's Pharmacopeia Extemporanea, published in 1710 and William Buchan's Domestic Medicine in 1769.

I have indexed these two and added them to a searchable database. If you are interested further, have a look at the Pharmacopeia page.

Hospitals in the 18th century

The first half of the 18th century saw the foundation of many hospitals in London and the rest of England.

The term Hospital at this time included institutions for dealing with the destitute and poor.

Foundation dates are sometimes arguable. For example, the Bethlehem Mental Hospital began as a priory in 1247; became a hospital in 1337; started admitting mental patients in 1357; and did not become a purely mental hospital until later. I have chosen 1337 as the foundation date in this case but you can take your pick.

Location refers to the location of the hospital in the 18th century, not necessarily the present location. Bethlehem is currently in Bromley but throughout the 18th century was located in Moorfields. Its original location was in Bishopsgate.

London Hospitals

Click on the Hospital name for more information. This will take you to the Wikipedia entry for each hospital - use the information with the same care you would use for any website (including this one).

Hospitals at the Beginning of the Century

1123 St Bartholomew Smithfield General Hospital
1173 St Thomas Southwark General Hospital
1337 Bethlehem (Bedlam) Moorfields Mental Hospital
1694 Greenwich Hospital Greenwich Home for Injured Sailors

New Foundations in the 18th Century

1719 Westminster Hospital Westminster General Hospital
1721 Guy's Hospital Southwark General Hospital
1739 Foundling Hospital Bloomsbury Orphans and Foundlings
1740 Royal London Hospital Bloomsbury General Hospital
1745 Middlesex Infirmary Camden General Hospital