Search for "history of medicine"

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Alban Perrier

Alban Perrier, M.D. (born 10 January 1942 in Hemmingford, Quebec). A versatile, gifted physician, Dr. Perrier is the founder and President of the Polyclinique Médicale Concorde, established in 1973 in Laval, Quebec.

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Childbirth in Canada

Childbirth is the beginning of a child’s life and a powerful rite of passage for the mother. Methods vary according to culture and time periods. Before the 19th century, Canadians relied mostly on the help of midwives, as well as prayers and even superstitions, to face the intense pains of contractions. Advances in the field of obstetrics in the 19th and 20th centuries introduced new ways of shortening the length of childbirth and managing its pains. Those developments also resulted in the transition of childbirth from homes to hospitals. Today, the different methods of childbirth can involve the help of physicians, midwives and doulas.

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Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle

On the evening of 27 June 1918, while sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Liverpool, England, the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat (U-86). Of the 258 crew and passengers, only 24 survived. Almost all the Canadian Army Medical Corps personnel were killed: six male officers, 64 enlisted men and 14 nursing sisters. Only one lifeboat escaped; the rest were either sucked under as the ship sank or attacked by the U-boat. The submarine’s officers were later charged with committing a war crime.

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Norman Bethune

Henry Norman Bethune, surgeon, inventor, political activist (born 4 March 1890 in Gravenhurst, ON; died 12 November 1939 in Huang Shiko, China). Norman Bethune was an innovative thoracic surgeon who made significant contributions in the field, including the invention or redesign of surgical instruments. He was also an early advocate of universal health care in Canada. A member of the Communist Party, Bethune volunteered during the Spanish Civil War, where he pioneered the mobile blood transfusion unit. In 1938, he travelled to China, where he became a battlefield surgeon for Chinese Communist forces under Mao Zedong. Bethune’s commitment to the welfare of soldiers and civilians during the Sino-Japanese War made him a hero in the People's Republic of China.

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Jennie Smillie

Jennie Smillie Robertson, physician, surgeon and teacher (born 10 February 1878 in Huron County, ON; died 26 February 1981 in Toronto, ON). Smillie is considered the first recorded female surgeon to practise in Ontario. She also performed the first major gynecological surgery in Canada.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Jacalyn Duffin

Jacalyn Duffin, MD, FRCP, PhD, CM, hematologist and medical historian (born 9 June 1950 in Thorndale, Ontario). Duffin began her medical career as a hematologist and became a medical historian and professor of medical history. She is a champion of the medical humanities, an interdisciplinary field of study that explores the arts, humanities and social sciences as they relate to healthcare education and practice. She has published numerous books and articles in the field and was president of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) and the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. Duffin received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the AAHM in 2019 and was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2020.

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Sir Frederick Banting

Sir Frederick Grant Banting, KBE, MC, FRS, FRSC, co-discoverer of insulin, medical scientist, painter (born 14 November 1891 in Alliston, ON; died 21 February 1941 near Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland). Banting is best known as one of the scientists who discovered insulin in 1922. After this breakthrough, he became Canada’s first professor of medical research at the University of Toronto. Banting was also an accomplished amateur painter. As an artist, he had links to A.Y. Jackson and the Group of Seven.

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Wilfred Bigelow

Wilfred Gordon Bigelow, OC, surgeon (born 18 June 1913 in Brandon, MB; died 27 March 2005 in Toronto, ON). Dr. Bigelow's special contribution to surgery of the heart was the use of hypothermia to slow tissue metabolism and protect the heart and brain from damage (see Cold Weather Injuries). His research on hypothermia also led to him to co-develop the portable artificial external cardiac pacemaker in 1950. This medical innovation contributed to the development of implantable cardiac pacemakers.

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Hypo Helmet

The Hypo Helmet (or “Smoke Helmet”) was an early gas mask developed by Newfoundland doctor Captain Cluny Macpherson during the First World War. Macpherson began working on the Hypo Helmet after the Germany army launched its first chlorine gas attack at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. The British army began issuing the Hypo Helmet to Canadian and British soldiers in May 1915. The design was soon modified, resulting in the P, PH and PHG Helmets. By war’s end, 2.5 million Hypo Helmets had been issued. The gas mask was one of the most important innovations of the First World War.

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Armand Frappier

Armand Frappier, CC, physician, microbiologist (born 26 November 1904 in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, QC; died 17 December 1991 in Montréal, QC). Armand Frappier was a key figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Canada; he both produced the BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine and advocated widespread vaccinations across the country. As founder and director of the Institut de microbiologie et d'hygiène de Montréal, he advanced medical research into infectious diseases and played an important role in the development of public health. (See also INRS-Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre.) He and his team produced a number of vaccines and other biological products (e.g., the anti-polio Salk vaccine, penicillin) and were responsible for freeze-drying blood serum for the armed forces during the Second World War. (See also Canada and the Development of the Polio Vaccine).