It may seem like we've moved so far since the turn of the 20th century but that is primarily because of the technological revolution. Consider that at the time of the American civil war the most common form of field surgery was sawing limbs off as quickly and painlessly as possible from chloroformed soldiers. Contrast that with today's advances in microsurgery and soon to be bionic limbs and we note that we have come further in 150 years than in the previous 1000.

Richard the Lionheart died in 1199 from gangrene two weeks after sustaining an injury to his shoulder from an arrow which today would be considered a flesh wound. The remedy of the day had been amputation but because of its location that wasn't possible and since penicillin and other modern drugs had not yet been invented he died in agony without the doctors being able to do anything to help him. Richard died hundreds of years before the US civil war and yet the advancements in all that time had been paltry compared to the period since.

If you were to plot technological progress on a graph you would see an inclined upwards line up until about 1900 and then a dramatic exponential curve.

However technology is a double edged sword in that its uses can drift into areas of moral dilemma. Bio-engineering with our tampering of DNA is now possible and rooting out certain human traits is a reality the Nazis could only dream of in the 1930's.

Still, I for one am glad to live during this period where diseases like diphtheria, polio, pneumonia and chicken pox are no longer potential death sentences.


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