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Journal Article


Ryan KL. Adv. Physiol. Educ. 2018; 42(2): 267-276.


U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.


(Copyright © 2018, The American Physiological Society)






Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945), perhaps America's preeminent physiologist, volunteered for service with the Army Expeditionary Force (AEF) during World War I. He initially served with Base Hospital No. 5, a unit made up of Harvard clinicians, before moving forward to the front lines to serve at a casualty clearing station run by the British. During his time there, he performed research on wounded soldiers to understand the nature and causes of traumatic shock. Subsequently, Cannon performed animal experimentation on the causes of traumatic shock in the London laboratory of Dr. William Bayliss before being assigned to the AEF Central Medical Laboratory in Dijon, France, where he continued his experimental studies. During this time, he also developed and taught a curriculum on resuscitation of wounded soldiers to medical providers. Although primarily a researcher and teacher, Cannon also performed clinical duties throughout the war, serving with distinction under fire. After the war, Cannon wrote a monograph entitled Traumatic Shock (New York: Appleton, 1923), which encapsulated the knowledge that had been gained during the war, both from direct observation of wounded soldiers, as well as laboratory experimentation on the causes and treatment of traumatic shock. In his monograph, Cannon elucidates a number of principles concerning hemorrhagic shock that were later forgotten, only to be "rediscovered" during the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This paper summarizes Cannon's wartime experiences and the knowledge gained concerning traumatic shock during World War I, with a comparison of current combat casualty care practices and knowledge to that which Cannon and his colleagues understood a century ago.

Language: en


combat casualty care; hemorrhage; history of physiology


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