People Who Made a Difference in Health Care

People who made a difference in health care, doctors, nurses, research scientists and those who brought in new medicine and techniques which helped save millions of lives.

hippocratesHippocrates  (460 – 377 BC) –- Hippocrates was a great doctor of ancient Greece. Through his careful examination of patients, treatments and success rates, he was able to vastly improve his medical treatment. Hippocrates built up one of the great libraries of medical science in Kos. He is also credited with the Hippocratic oath which is still sworn today by medical practitioners.

William_HarveyWilliam Harvey (1578 – 1657) English physician. He was the first known doctor to describe in detail the circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the brain and body by the heart.

florence-nightingale Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) British nurse. By serving in the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale was instrumental in changing the role and perception of the nursing profession. Her dedicated service won widespread admiration and led to a significant improvement in the treatment of wounded soldiers.

Margaret-Sanger Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) – Through her work as a nurse in New York’s Lower east side in 1912, Margaret Sanger worked hard to improve birth control practice to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This groundbreaking shift in attitude led to the foundation of the American Birth Control League. Sanger is credited with playing a leading role in the acceptance of contraception.

Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of a smallpox vaccine. Jenner’s breakthrough vaccine also enabled many other vaccines to be developed.

Joseph_ListerJoseph Lister (1827 – 1912) English surgeon. Lister pioneered the use of antiseptic (Carbolic acid) and antiseptic surgery which dramatically improved survival rates from major surgery. For this he is often referred to as the father of modern surgery as his use of antiseptic greatly increased the range of operations that could be carried out.

Henry_Heimlich Dr. Henry Heimlich (1920 – 2016) Heimlich was an American surgeon and medical researcher. He came up with an innovative and simple procedure to help choking victims. It involves a technique of abdominal thrusts where a person stands behind and applies pressure on the diaphragm to increasingly apply pressure. It is claimed this has saved the lives of up to 50,000 people. Heimlich himself used the manoeuvre on two people, including an old lady in his nursing home. The Heimlich manoeuvre is included in guidelines for dealing with choking victims.

maximilian-bircher-benner Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867 – January 24, 1939) Bircher-Benner was a pioneering swiss physician and nutritionist. He advocated the eating of raw fruit and vegetables and discouraged eating meat and heavily processed foods. He also popularised eating muesli. Although he was criticised by the scientific establishment, his healthy eating ideas took off and helped create a backlash against the prevailing diet of processed bread, meat and carbs. The healthy eating trends he established pre-war, have continued to grow in popularity with more scientific research showing the health benefits of such a diet.

Sigmund_FreudSigmund Freud (1885 – 1939) Austrian /Czech physician, leading figure in the new science of psychoanalysis. Freud made an extensive study of dreams and the subconscious to try and understand better human emotions.

christaan_BarnardChristiaan Barnard (1922 –  2001) South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant.

Clara_Barton Clara Barton (1821-1912) – A nurse in the civil war, Clara Barton helped improve the treatment of wounded soldiers. After working with the international Red cross in Europe, she returned to the US where she set up the American Red Cross.

Marie-curie Marie Curie (1867-1934) – Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry and physics. She played a key role in the development of Radiotherapy and X-Ray. During the First World War, she developed an X-Ray machine and began treating soldiers identifying breaks in bones. This has become standard practice for modern medicine.

 Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) Scottish Biologist, pharmacologist and botanist who discovered penicillin. He discovered penicillin by accident but recognised its antibacterial properties. Fleming later shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1945) with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain who succeeded in making it commercially available.

ParacelsusParacelsus (1493 –  1541) Swiss-German physician and leading health reformer. Paracelsus founded the discipline of toxicology and pioneered the use of chemicals in treating patients. He rebelled against the medical orthodoxy of the day, emphasising practical experience rather than ancient scriptures. He was also one of the first doctors to note illnesses can be psychological in nature.

peopleLouis Pasteur – French scientist who found many important improvements in medical science, e.g. vaccination for Rabies, and a safe way to pasteurise milk.

Paul-Lauterbur Paul Lauterbur (1929 – 2007) Lautebur was an American chemist who with Peter Mansfield helped to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gave doctors to see inside a patient’s body without needing to cut it open. With MRI doctors can see far more than with x-ray, which is limited to bones. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003.

Peter_Mansfield Peter Mansfield (1933 –  2017). English physicist who with Peter Lauterbur helped to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gave doctors to see inside a patient’s body without needing to cut it open. With MRI doctors can see far more than with x-ray, which is limited to bones. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003.

Simpson_James_Young Sir James Young Simpson (1811 – 6 May 1870) Scottish doctor and obstetrician who discovered the use of chloroform and then demonstrated its effective use on patients. This was one of the first anaesthetics used in modern medicine. He was also a strong advocate for employing midwives to help deliver babies.

Michelle Obama (1964 – ) As First Lady 2009-2017, Obama played a high profile role in promoting better nutrition, healthy eating. In 2010, she launched an initiative “Let’s Move” which encouraged Americans to improve physical health by getting more exercise and eating healthier food.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “People who made a difference”, Oxford, UK., 18th July 2013. Updated 26 January 2018.


Sigmund_Freud Famous doctors

Florence_Nightingale Famous nurses – Famous nurses, such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Lillian Wald and Margaret Sanger.


Comments are closed.