The Historical Medical Community:
Contributions and Innovations

Author: Sara Patricia Chavarria
Modified by Rachel Hughes

Time: 5 class periods
Overhead 1 – 1 copy per class.
Overhead 2
Copies of Handout 1 for each student
Materials: Overhead 1 – List of doctors/innovations
Overhead 2 - Biographies
Handout 1 – Job Questionnaire
Library time
Computer and Internet access


In this explore lesson students will investigate an historical figure or innovation that helped change our views of medicine and health. Each student will conduct research on one person or innovation and prepare a biography poster. The students will be assessed on how well they researched their subject by filling out a Job Application Questionnaire. A matrix listing historical figures and innovations is available for teachers to reference.

Students will be able to:
i. Create a biographical poster on a famous medical scientist or scientific innovation by conducting library and internet research.
ii. Write a reflection piece on the efficacy of scientific experimentation techniques on human subjects using the biographical posters as a resource.

National Council for History in the Schools:
Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 3J: Hypothesize the influence of the past.
  • Standard 4B: Obtain historical data.
  • Standard 4C: Interrogate historical data.
  • Standard 5A: Identify issues and problems from the past.

World History Standards

  • Era 6, Standard 2: How European society experienced political, economic, and cultural transformations in an age of global intercommunication, 1450-1750.
    • Standard 2D: The student understands how the Scientific Revolution contributed to transformations in European society.
  • Era 6, Standard 6: Major global trends from 1450-1770
  • Era 8, Standard 3: The search for peace and security in the 1920s and 1930s.
    • Standard 3C: The student understands the interplay between scientific or technological innovations and new patterns of social and cultural life between 1900 and 1940.
  • Era 9, Standard2: The search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.
    • Standard 2A: The student understands how population explosion and environmental change have altered conditions of life around the world.
    • Standard 2E: The student understands major worldwide scientific and technological trends of the second half of the 20th century.

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites
Start with this website for the internet search: http://www.mic.ki.se/HistDis.html
More helpful sites: http://www.indiana.edu/~ancmed/intro.HTM



Days 1-2
1. Day 1 starts with a general discussion about current medical innovations. These questions are meant to prompt discussion and not necessarily be answered at this time. These are questions for students to ponder and expound upon over the next few days. You may wish to organize student ideas and responses on the board in a ‘who, what, why, how’ chart. Ask students to name some common prescription or over the counter drugs. Who developed these drugs? When were they developed? (If students are in a class using the science lessons from this unit they will have talked a little about antibiotics.)Ask students how important they think antibiotics are. What would life be like without them? Remind them of the numbers of people who historically died, even in recent history, as a result of diseases we can treat today. Ask them who they think develops medicines and treatments today. Is it just pharmaceutical companies? What about medical doctors? Researchers at universities? Researchers at private foundations, for example the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Does medical innovation occur just in the US? (Students should recognize that medical innovations happen all over the world.) What are the sources of inspiration for medical innovations?

2. After discussing current medical innovations for a short time transition to more historical innovations if the topic hasn’t already developed. Who developed treatments and medicines in earlier times?

3. Display Overhead 1, the list of Doctors and medical innovations/inventions.

4. Explain to students that they will be conducting individual research on a medical individual or innovation for the next couple of days. Student will create biographies on the innovator and describe the impact of their innovation.

5. Ask students to choose a name or subject from the list for them to research. Write the student name next to the name/subject they chose. For more reticent students, the teacher can assign the name or subject.

6. When done, display Overhead 2 (Biographical information List). This loosely outlines what information students are to collect.

7. Research time will be given to students at the library or on the Internet (check out this site: http://www.mic.ki.se/HistDis.html or other listed sites.)

Day 3
8. At the start of the class, each student will be given Handout 1 (Job Application Questionnaire) and they all must fill it out as a test of how well they have researched their individual or innovation.

9. If they cannot fill it out, they need to conduct more research during the remainder of class and at home until they can adequately and completely answer the Questionnaire.

Days 4-5
10. Using their researched information, students will prepare a poster communicating their work. Their poster content will then be presented to the class.

11. When done, the posters will be mounted on the walls of the room for the reflection assignment.

12. Reflection assignment. Students must choose TWO of the following questions or statements and answer them in complete sentences.

a. Question 1: Which of these breakthroughs or innovations changed people’s lives the most? Explain.
b. Question 2: Which of these innovations/breakthroughs could not have happened without human subjects to test it on? Explain.
c. Question 3: Name one breakthrough/innovation that unnecessarily risked human life. Defend your answer.
d. Question 4: Which of these innovations met with opposition from society? Explain.
e. Question 5: Which of these innovations drew upon non-traditional western medical practices?

Take a vote to see what students thought were the top 3 breakthroughs and discuss why.

Any work that is not finished should be completed as homework.

Embedded Assessment
Their biographies, job applications, and posters can be assessed for accuracy and content. The Reflection assignment can be assessed for how well they use content to defend their answers as well as how thoroughly they develop their own opinions and ideas.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo