The Crimean War was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856. In the end, the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain, and Sardinia. By January 1856, “Russia lost 500,000 troops, mostly to disease, malnutrition, and exposure…” (History.com Editors). In 1855, there was a discovery found stating that poor sanitation levels led to an increase in mortality rates, as seen throughout the Crimean War (Slonczewski et al. 7).
Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, was a social reformer who became the founder of modern nursing after many struggles. In 1854, under Sidney Herbert’s rule, Nightingale was allowed to lead thirty-eight other nurses of Crimea at the military hospital in Scutari. Once the nursing team arrived at the hospital, it appeared that soldiers were wounded and dying primarily due to unsatisfying sanitary conditions. A statistic states, “ten times more soldiers were dying of diseases such as typhus, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery than from battle wounds” (Fee and Garofalo). Hygiene was neglected; infections were prominent; there were no clean linens; clothing was covered with bugs, lice and fleas; rats were living under the beds; and much more unsanitary factors were present. The basic needs of survival were not provided for the soldiers (Fee and Garofalo). Changes needed to be made to lower mortality rates. While resolutions to the hygiene problems began, “the death toll at Nightingale’s hospital was higher than at any other hospital in the East…” (Bostridge). In response, the Palmerston’s government sent out a sanitary commission to improve ventilation and sewage flow. After struggling for some time, Nightingale came up with a solution and she pushed her ignorant mentality out of the way. In the end, she successfully reduced unnecessary deaths in the Army during peacetime. Once that concept was fulfilled, she turned her attention to the basic foundations of nursing and began incorporating sanitary concepts into hospitals.
Besides the chronological events in history leading to the discovery that poor sanitation leads to mortality, there is a biological answer. There are four kinds of microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. Poor hygiene or sanitation can provide these microorganisms a place to live and survive. In worse matters, this can allow them to communicate and duplicate if sanitation levels are not adequate. In the video, ‘Seeing the Invisible’, it states that bacteria can communicate using a molecular language. Also, it is said that bacteria were probably the first to ever communicate with one another (‘Animated Life: Seeing the Invisible’). This means that the spread of microbes is very high. Soldiers were dying rapidly because microorganisms were spreading and growing quickly and never fully dying out. In the hospitals, there was no form of sanitation until Nightingale was in charge.
To conclude, with little to no sanitation, microorganisms are freestanding in regards to where they travel, and how large and dangerous they may become. Through the terrors of the Crimean War, soldiers battled not only on the field, but when being cared for. Poor sanitation does lead to mortality.