Industrial medicine saw its tentative beginnings among the inquiring minds of 16th century physicians such as Paracelsus. In the 17th century, reports of conditions in mines on the Continent prompted natural scientists at the Royal Society to initiate a research programme into what we now know as mercurial poisoning. The latter part of the eighteenth century witnessed the change from domestic to factory industry with its concomitant social, economic, and technological upheaval, resulting in great shifts of population away from the countryside to the towns. Men, women, and children were employed in the new factories in primitive, unhygienic conditions, and mill fever and illness generally were rife. It was against this background that Percival and Thackrah, prompted no doubt in large measure by the conditions of child labour, inquired into, and made recommendations for, the improvement of hygiene in the factories, thus laying the foundations of industrial medicine as we know it today.
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