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Lunchtime Talks: War and Medicine

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University of Glasgow

Memorial Chapel

United Kingdom

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A series of talks examining the role of the First World War in Medicine.

This will occur on the last Friday of every month at lunchtime (13.00) in the Memorial Chapel. Everyone is welcome, no need to book a ticket, simply turn up just before the talk begins.


27th January

Dr Anna Mcfarlane, University of Glasgow

‘Becoming Acquainted With All That Pain’: Naomi Mitchison’s VAD Nursing in WW1

Scottish author Naomi Mitchison is well known for her lifetime of writing and her significance as an important member of early-twentieth-century literary circles, but the importance to her career of the time she spent as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse during World War One has so far been overlooked. This paper, made possible by a Wellcome Trust Small Grant, explores this time of Mitchison’s life and shows that nursing shaped her writing career and her politics.

24th February

Dr Beverly Bergman, University of Glasgow

Public Health in the Trenches: Defence against poison gas

The First World War saw the first large-scale use of poison gas as a weapon. The highly irritant chlorine gas choked and blinded its victims, leading to intense efforts by the Royal Army Medical Corps to develop safe and effective protection for the troops. As newer and more lethal gases were developed, so better masks were required, culminating in the development of the small box respirator which remained the standard until 1943. This talk will examine the effects of gas on the human body, the development of protection, and the treatment of gas casualties.

31st March

Fiona Bourne, Royal College of Nursing Archives

Why was the College of Nursing founded during the war?

The College of Nursing, a professional association, was founded in the middle of a the biggest war Britain had ever experienced, why? A brief description of how professionalization in nursing was affected by the First World War through an examination of the role and experience of the founders of the College of Nursing and their leadership.

28th April

Dr Alison O'Donnell, Royal College of Nursing

The nurses and patients of the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont France, 1914 -1919

The Scottish Women’s Hospitals [SWHs] organisation was founded by Dr Elsie Inglis in 1914 at the outbreak of World War 1 [WW1]. In October 1914, having been rejected by the British medical establishment, Inglis with the funding and backing of the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies approached the French and Serbian authorities to offer help to treat the casualties of WW1.

Given the position of women in society at this time, these SWH hospitals and casualty clearing stations were remarkable units as they were funded, organised, managed and staffed entirely by women. All of the nurses, surgeons, bacteriologists, cooks, engineers, drivers, orderlies and VADs were women working at the front line in during the WW1 conflicts. In December 1914, SWHs established a hospital at the abbey at Royaumont, 20 kilometres north of Paris.

This presentation utilises archival sources and secondary resources from staff working at Royaumont. These sources, paralleled with a site visit, will explore the role and delivery of care which the nurses of Royaumont experienced. Given the nature of the warfare of WW1 the work of nurses responded to these horrific events, these changing nursing practices will also be considered.

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University of Glasgow

Memorial Chapel

United Kingdom

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