Kids getting special medical attention is a twentieth-century thing. There was a time when we took it for granted that many children died before the age of five. Then we realized that some simple measures could reduce child mortality significantly. We also realized that if we took care to have healthy children, we were more likely to have healthy, able, adults (to be soldiers and workers—a big concern in the early 20th century).

Society began to see children as an important investment. We developed a special interest in the health of children. Pediatrics was born.

Childbirth used to be a fairly dangerous event for women. One of the big risks was infection (called “child-bed fever”), caused by bacteria on the hands or instruments of the doctor or midwife. Until the 1930s it was fairly common for women to die while giving birth.

Forceps like these were used to grasp the baby's head and pull it out of the birth canal.

Until around 1940, most women gave birth to their babies at home. Then the dominant opinion changed, and most people believed that the best, safest, healthiest place to give birth was in the hospital. Today Read More
Kids getting special medical attention is a twentieth-century thing. There was a time when we took it for granted that many children died before the age of five. Then we realized that some simple measures could reduce child mortality significantly. We also realized that if we took care to have healthy children, we were more likely to have healthy, able, adults (to be soldiers and workers—a big concern in the early 20th century).

Society began to see children as an important investment. We developed a special interest in the health of children. Pediatrics was born.

Childbirth used to be a fairly dangerous event for women. One of the big risks was infection (called “child-bed fever”), caused by bacteria on the hands or instruments of the doctor or midwife. Until the 1930s it was fairly common for women to die while giving birth.

Forceps like these were used to grasp the baby's head and pull it out of the birth canal.

Until around 1940, most women gave birth to their babies at home. Then the dominant opinion changed, and most people believed that the best, safest, healthiest place to give birth was in the hospital. Today there are growing movements that support birth outside of the hospital, in birthing centres or at home.

There are a variety of positions women can take to give birth. This birthing chair is designed to support one such position.

Around 1900, baby incubators were introduced as wondrous technical devices that would revolutionize baby care and save thousands of weak or premature babies. Incubators (containing real babies!) were put on display at public exhibitions.

By our standards, these incubators were rather simple: glass and metal boxes, temperature-controlled, with separate ventilation systems bringing warmed and filtered fresh air to the baby.

In the 1960s and 70s even small hospitals were establishing neo-natal units (departments devoted to the survival premature babies) and incubators were a standard feature of these units. They are now used in conjunction with sophisticated life-support and monitoring technologies. A baby's first days can be a very high-tech experience.

© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Forceps

Obstetric forceps, Churchill's midwifery forceps and Mann obstetrical forceps.

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection

© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Obstetrical Chair

Doctors and babies at the Toronto General Hospital

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection
c. 1980
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Incubator

Incubator

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection
c. 1960
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, the most common childhood illnesses were infectious diseases like measles, rubella, and polio.

These are no longer as threatening as vaccinations against the diseases have been developed. Young children routinely receive a series of vaccinations during their first years.

The widespread use of these vaccines (and the availability of antibiotics) has resulted in the decline of infectious diseases. There is some evidence now that the vaccines may cause their own serious problems in a few patients too, like severe allergies and autism.

Today the common childhood diseases in Canada are the diseases that you are born with, not the ones you catch.

Some babies are born with serious structural problems in their hearts. The arteries and veins are linked to the wrong chambers of the heart. These babies were called “blue babies” because their bodies did not get enough of the bright red oxygenated blood they needed. Before Dr. Bill Mustard, blue babies were not expected to live very long.

Dr. Bill Mustard (a Canadian, 1914-1987) developed an operation to fix this heart defect, and all Read More
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the most common childhood illnesses were infectious diseases like measles, rubella, and polio.

These are no longer as threatening as vaccinations against the diseases have been developed. Young children routinely receive a series of vaccinations during their first years.

The widespread use of these vaccines (and the availability of antibiotics) has resulted in the decline of infectious diseases. There is some evidence now that the vaccines may cause their own serious problems in a few patients too, like severe allergies and autism.

Today the common childhood diseases in Canada are the diseases that you are born with, not the ones you catch.

Some babies are born with serious structural problems in their hearts. The arteries and veins are linked to the wrong chambers of the heart. These babies were called “blue babies” because their bodies did not get enough of the bright red oxygenated blood they needed. Before Dr. Bill Mustard, blue babies were not expected to live very long.

Dr. Bill Mustard (a Canadian, 1914-1987) developed an operation to fix this heart defect, and allowed these babies to live just as long as other kids.

We don't see rickets much anymore in Canada. Rickets is a disease caused by not enough vitamin D in the diet, and since vitamin D is now regularly added to milk and other foods, rickets isn't common.

In the 1960s, Dr. Charles Scriver (b.1930), working in Montreal, noticed that some children still developed the disease. His research resulted in understanding genetic (inherited) forms of rickets, which prevent vitamin D from being absorbed in the body, even when there is of plenty of it in the diet.

He began a program in which all infants born in Québec hospitals were tested for genetic diseases (like genetic rickets), and made sure these babies were given special diets to prevent rickets from developing.

This tonsil snare was used to reach down the throat of a young patient, grab the tonsils, and snip them off. Operations to remove the tonsils were far more common in the 1950s and 60s than they are today. Doctors performed tonsillectomies as a way to treat recurring throat infections. Since the 1980s the medial community has doubted whether these procedures are effective.

The upside to these surgeries was that patients were given jello and ice cream while they recovered, because cool, smooth food was easy on the throat. Young patients rarely objected.

The hospital can be an intimidating place for children. Since the 1950s hospitals have tried different things to be more kid-friendly places. Clown therapy is one of them. This isn't just about making goofy balloon animals. Clown therapy involves specially trained clowns visiting with hospitalized kids. These clowns are trained in child psychology and skilled in tuning in to how a sick child might feel. Clowns know different ways to communicate with kids that just might make them feel better. (Of course, they are also trained in juggling and gibberish). Clown “doctoring” in Canada first started in Winnipeg around 1986, and has now spread to other Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Windsor and Montreal.

© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Vaccine Preparation

Vaccine preparation to protect against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection
1950
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Bill Mustard, 1976

Dr. Bill Mustard, 1976

Photo courtesy of the Hospital for Sick Children Archives (Toronto)
1976
© Hospital for Sick Children Archives


Video - Dr. Bill Mustard

Hear more about Dr. Mustard's work.

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

© Permission of The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, London, Ontario. All rights reserved.


Dr. Charles Scriver

Dr. Charles Scriver

Photo courtesy of McGill University Archives

PR032061
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Video - Dr. Charles Scriver

Hear Dr. Scriver talk about his work.

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

© Permission of The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, London, Ontario. All rights reserved.


Tonsil Snare

Tonsil Snare

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection
c. 1915
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Robo the Clown

Robo (aka Karen Ridd) at work with patient at the Winnipeg Children's Hospital, around 1986.

Canada Science and Technology Museum and the University Health Network Artifact Collection
1986
© CMST & UHN 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Observe evolution of hospitals, tools and treatments throughout the twentieth century;
  • Identify the evolution of medical technology and discuss its contribution to treatment and medical care;
  • Illustrate concepts in biology, identify specific diseases and treatments offered (past and present).

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans