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From the Battlefield to Bellevue: The Origin of the Ambulance

Imagine being a wounded soldier on a battlefield. Through the pain you watch as the war continues around you - comrades fall, gunfire plays an incessant and deafening melody, and the ground seeps a chill through your skin. Prior to the 19th century, you would have had a long wait before help arrived. The wounded were not collected until the battle was over, and millions of casualties occurred simply because the wounded were left too long without medical care. Luckily in the modern world, our brave soldiers are moved quickly to medical stations, but it was not until 1792 that emergency ambulances were developed to transport the wounded during battle. As Napolean Bonaparte's chief physician, Dominique-Jean Larrey noticed the speed with which soldiers moved the wheeled artillery and applied the concept to the development of the "flying ambulance." Larrey's ambulance was a lightweight horse-drawn wagon that collected the wounded during battle and delivered them to tents or field hospitals. The new ambulance system not only increased soldier survival, but also boosted morale. Continuing a trend of military to civilian development in the medical industry, the ambulance was introduced to American civilians in 1869 by a US army surgeon, Edward Dalton. Dalton founded an ambulance service in Bellevue, Washington, and medicine throughout the public sector was forever changed.