1.) Antiseptics—as we know them, anyway. In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis in Hungaria noted that when doctors washed their hands between pregnant patients in a hospital, the spread of puperal disease(childbed fever) was significantly reduced. In the ‘70’s Joseph Lister took the new “theory” into the operating room and tried to prevent sepsis with carbolic acid. It worked, but doctors were not particularly thrilled by the idea, especially in the U.S. http://web.ukonline.co.uk/b.gardner/Lister.html I do wonder if this is where the name Listerine came from.
2.) Tuberculosis—It was consumption for most of the century, and was thought to be a sort of family predisposition. It killed millions of people. (I’ve bloged about this earlier). In 1882 Robert Koch discovered the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The name changed, and the treatments also. Unfortunately the cure (antibiotics) did not come about until the 20th century—1943. After both WWI and WWII! http://www.umdnj.edu/~ntbcweb/history.htm
3.) Electric Light—We all know this one, but we don’t associate it with the Victorians for the most part. Various elements of the light bulb had been around for some time, but Edison was the man who developed the first practical light bulb. And then went on to establish the electrical industry, starting in Manhattan in the 1880’s. http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bledison.htm
4.) Anesthesia—Pain relief, really. Sure, there had been many methods (alcohol was one! And laudanum) but ether and chloroform for operating came about during the Victorian period. The first use was in Boston, 1846. Both substances went on to be used quite often in childbirth (earlier blog, also) for which many women were grateful. http://neurosurgery.mgh.harvard.edu/History/gift.htm
5.) Telegraph—the telegraph itself was invented before the period, 1830. But it became widely used during the period, with wires being spread across the US and other countries (although I don’t know as much about them). The first news dispatched my Mr. Morses invention was in 1844, between Washington and Baltimore. http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bltelegraph.htm
6.)Telephone—1876 as many of us know. The first telephone line was between Sommerville MA and Boston in 1877. I read—but I don’t recall where—that the first pay phone was in Conneticut. Someone actually stood next to the phone and collected money from people who used it. http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bltelephone7.htm
7.) Gas lighting—This was really an early 19th century invention, but was so ubiquitious during the Victorian era that I felt I had to mention it. The first public use of gas for lighting occurred in London, 1812, the Regency period. The first pipes in the US were laid in the Baltimore, 1816. Gas lighting came to New York in 1820, all well before the start of the Victorian period. But as cities developed during the period, gas lines were laid, thus establishing the city as “modern”.
8.) Central Heating—This is something I cannot find much information on, yet anyway. But I do know there were methods and furnaces that provided heat throughout an entire house by the end of the century, because Henry James references it in The Bostonians. (1886, referencing, 1876). I also saw one of these central heating systems in a preserved Victorian in Boston, the Gibson House http://www.thegibsonhouse.org/index.asp
9.) Indoor Plumbing—Toilets and bathtubs, oh my! As I have discussed in previous blogs, indoor plumbing was first introduced in the Tremont House in Boston, 1830 (close to the start of the Victorian period). The Gibson house (see above) had a tub with hot water in the 1850’s.
10.) Bicycle—This was just pure fun, and not the history changing invention of the previous 9. It came about in 1865, and was the rage—enough so that women’s clothes were even fashioned around it—in the latter part of the century.