Friday, May 3, 2013

Civil War Thermometers

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

Civil War physicians are . . .criticized for their failure to use even the few thermometers they had. Yet they were by no means behind their contemporaries in Europe in this regard. Thermometers were cumbersome to use, as they were usually placed in the armpit for a long period of time, and so w ere just "not used very much." Body temperature was ascertained only during the investigation of unusual diseases, such as in Confederate physician Joseph Jones's study of "traumatic tetanus" published during the war. Not until 1867 did German professor of medicine Carl Wünderlich introduce thermometry to bedside medicine. The profound impact of his work is summarized by the expression: "He found fever a disease and left it a symptom." After Wünderlich's report, thermometer use became widespread among American physicians.
FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

PHOTO: 1860 axilla clinical thermometer with ivory scale


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