Two stacked sepia-toned photos. Top: male patient, three male attendants, a female nurse, and a man in a dark suit in a room. Bottom: three women in beds in the background and a child in the foreground, looking at the camera

Surgical wards, ca. 1897

The early surgical wards at the MGH were frequently subject to surgical infection and contamination. Among the early efforts made to overcome this problem was the construction of large, open wards with numerous windows to provide adequate ventilation. Gradually, antiseptic procedures were improved and accepted, and by the 1890s, infection had become less of a problem in surgical wards such as those portrayed in the above photographs.