Medical Advances of the Last 100 Years

calmyourbeansStarred Page By calmyourbeans, 19th Sep 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Drugs & Medicines

In the past hundred or so years there have been some amazing advances and important discoveries in the medical field, some obviously more important than others but I will give a quick rundown of a few below.

Blood Typing

Starting a bit outside of the hundred year limit, in 1901 an Austrian-American named Karl Landsteiner started telling people about blood compatibility and rejection and developed the ABO blood typing system so that you can find compatible blood types for successful blood transfusions. The system classifies blood into four main types A, B, AB and O with each letter referring to a kind of antigen or protein on the surface of the red blood cells. For example Type A blood has antigens on the surface known as A-antigens.


Landsteiner eventually went on to receive a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1930 due to this discovery. The Nobel Prize winner the year before was a Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins who in 1906 suggested that vitamins existed and were essential to a person’s health. At the time however he simply called them "accessory food factors" and was only later named vitamins.

Blood Transfusions

Six years after Landsteiner's blood typing technique was created (1907) the first successful human blood transfusion happened and a whole range of new possibilities opened for doctors to help people. In 1937 this was taken even further by the development of the first blood bank in Cook County Hospital in Chicago by Bernard Fantus. A 2% solution of Sodium citrate was used to preserve the blood and they could keep refrigerated blood for up to ten days.

Insulin and Diabetes

In 1922 insulin was first used as a treatment for diabetes. This was a major breakthrough for the medical community as Diabetes, which is the chronic disorder of glucose metabolism by the body not producing an adequate amount of insulin, is a leading cause of death in the United States. The ability to isolate insulin, which could then be administered to control the problem, was made by F.G. Banting and C. H. Best.

Discovery of Penicillin

Skipping forward a few years and a story most people know, Sir Alexander Fleming a Scottish bacteriologist, discovers penicillin and it was the first antibiotic that could be used successfully in the treatment of bacterial infections in humans. Most people know it as the good type of 'mould'.

Heart-Lung Machines

In 1935 Do John H Gibbon Jr. uses a heart-lung machine successfully for extra-corporeal circulation of a cat (a machine that can handle the functions of the heart and lungs while surgery is performed). In 1953 Dr Gibbon used the method for the first time successfully on a human, it is now an integral part of surgery and commonly used for things like open heart surgery.

Bupa and the NHS

In 1947 the Bupa company is established in the UK with 17 British provident associations joining together to provide healthcare to the general public. This was a year before the NHS was formed. Started solely as a health insurance provider, Bupa have established themselves as one of the main alternatives to the National Health Service and are now an international all-encompassing healthcare company and medical experts. A year later in 1948 the NHS was formed as a publicly funded healthcare service that was paid for through general taxation rather than an insurance scheme. It is now the main healthcare system used in the UK.


Also in 1953, when Dr Gibbon used heart-lung machines, the world began to learn about DNA and the structure of the DNA molecule. James Watson and Francis Crick at Cambridge University and Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College in London were all studying DNA and some date shared by Wilkins to Watson and Crick allowed this breakthrough. In 1962 all three of them shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (Franklin had already died and they do not give Nobel Prizes posthumously).

Artificial Hearts and Heart Transplants

In 1957 major steps were taken in artificial heart technology when Dr Willem Kolff and Dr Tetsuzo Akutzu implanted the first artificial heart into a dog. The animal survived for 90 minutes and this was enough to get the ball rolling with heart transplants and artificial hearts. in 1967 a South African heart surgeon named Dr Christiaan Barnard managed to perform the first human heart transplant. However it is not until 1982 when Dr William DeVries implants the Jarvik-7 artificial heart into patient Barney Clark, Clark lived for 112 days after.

Test Tube Babies

1978 saw the first test tube baby born in the U.K. Using in vitro fertilization which is a technique for conception for a human embryo outside of the mother's body.

Dolly the Sheep and Cloning

One of the biggest recent breakthroughs came in 1996 when the famous Dolly the sheep became the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly lived on until 2003 showing the cloning was a success. This technology has led to scientists discovering in 2007 how to use human skin cells to create embryonic stem cells.

So To Wrap Up

Obviously this is no comprehensive list and scientists and doctors have made some incredible achievements over the years and will continue to do so long into the future. You can view the advances as a time line here on Timerime.


Bupa, Medical Care, Medications, Medicine, Medicines, Nhs, Technology Advancement, Technology And Practical Knowledge, Timeline

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author avatar calmyourbeans
The team at Calm Your Beans work for a digital marketing agency. One of the perks of the job is that we get to work with great clients from all corners of the business world.

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author avatar vpaulose
19th Sep 2012 (#)

Thank you for this nice post.

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author avatar Sandee
20th Sep 2012 (#)

Great Post

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author avatar Ptrikha
5th Oct 2012 (#)

Great article with great pictures.

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author avatar Gregory Allen Poe
22nd Sep 2014 (#)


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