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Sir John Pringle’s Observations on the Diseases of the Army—an early scientific account of epidemiology and the prevention of cross infection
  1. I Milne
  1. Library and Information Services, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 IJQ, UK;

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    Born in 1707, Pringle studied medicine at Leiden and Paris before practising in Edinburgh. In 1744 he became physician general to the British army and he was present at the battle of Culloden. In 1752 the first of the many editions of Pringle’s Diseases of the Army was published. In the volume Pringle identified hospitals as a major cause of sickness and began to think in terms of septic and antiseptic. Pringle felt that fevers, dysentery, and jail fever were the three most prevalent and fatal diseases affecting armies and although he was wrong about the way they were transmitted (he blamed putrid air) his recommendations for prevention helped to control epidemics. After his retiral from the army Pringle started a successful London practice. He was a president of the Royal Society and physician-in-ordinary to the king. Sir John died in 1782.


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