10 Greatest Inventions In Medicine And Biology

author image
10:42 pm 16 Dec, 2010

The domain of medicine and biology is a bystander of some radical inventions and advancements. This article is a description of some of the greatest inventions in medicine and biology. Take a look.

1. Syringe

In 1946, Blaise Pascal made a syringe for scientific use. With this syringe, purgative clysters were administered. French doctor Velpeau made some observations on aneurysms. He pricked a needle into an aneurysm and noticed the formation of a clot. In 1835, French doctor Charles Gabriel Parvaz invented the hypodermic syringe for injecting ferric chloride. The syringe was made up of a silver cylinder and the lid of the pump body could be screwed down; the cylinder had a nozzle to which the cannula could be fixed, which was itself extended by a steel trocar. Fournier invented the glass syringe in 1895. To eject the liquid, a piston which could be pushed down quite easily was used.


2. Stethoscope

Listening to sounds of internal organs by amplifying them with an instrument began in the 19th century. In 1816, the Frenchman Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec invented a wooden tube which was capable of isolating the organic noises from the surrounding environment and making them louder. He heard these with only one ear. Later, two hollow tubes were used so that the sounds could be heard with both ears. Laennec made two kinds of stethoscope; one was a hollow tube to examine the thorax and the other, a solid tube for examining the heart. The first type developed into two models – one was cylindrical and was used to listen to changes in the voice, the second was widened at the auricular end to listen to breathing and rattles in the throat.


3. Vaccination

In the 18th century, the anti-smallpox vaccine was rediscovered in the west. It had been invented in China by a Taoist monk in the 10th century BC. The invention was probably based on philosophical principles, i.e. treating an evil with an evil. The principle of attenuation of the germs by a multiple transmissions was practiced some thirty centuries ago. The process of vaccination started by the implantation of a pad carrying some attenuated germs in one nostril. It is mentioned in some Chinese texts that cultures of attenuated germs were kept in sealed flasks, so as to keep them away from heat and light.


4. Contact lenses

In 1887, the German ophthalmologist A.E. Fick devised the first corneal lenses, now known as contact lenses. The German firm I.G. Farben adopted the idea of Fick and made some lenses out of plexiglass which were lighter, though their manufacture and use still use problems. In 1956, the Englishman Norman Bier made lenses of smaller diameters that did not cover the whole of the eyeball. These were made of methacrylate and could be easily inserted and taken out. The American firm Softsite Contact Lens Laboratory improved them and made soft contact lenses, acceptable to eyes.



5. Contraceptives

Contraception has been practiced by human beings since early times. The ancient documents gave an idea of the use of vaginal tampons which were soaked in substances like honey, olive oil, onion juices etc. The condom made its appearance in the 16th century to prevent veneral diseases. These were made from vulcanized rubber from 1840, and from latex since 1930. In the 19th century, intra-uterine devices (IUD) appeared. These were applied to the neck of the womb. It was simplified form of the tampon. The German doctor R. Richter made the first scientific coil. In 1921, the Austrian Ludwig Haberlandt took human anti-ovulatory secretions into consideration and made the contraceptive pill. The Americans Allen and Corner made the hormone progesterone in 1929. The American Gregor Pincus was the one who gave the scientific approval for the use of progesterone as a contraceptive, by specifying the exact amount to be used. Thus the ‘pill’ was made.


6. Electrical cardiac stimulation

In the 20th century, the cardiac muscle was stimulated using the pacemaker. In 1802, the Frenchman Pierre Henri Nysten obtained freshly guillotined corpses and worked on restoring the dead heart. He observed that the auricles could move even when other parts of the heart had stopped moving. In 1774, an English doctor ‘resuscitated’ a child, who, having fallen from the second floor of a building, was declared dead. He administered electrical charged on his chest. In 1871, the German F. Steiner applied this technique on his patient who had fainted and could not be revived by other means. He implanted a needle in his heart and then transmitted a weak electric current through it. He found that he could revive his patient. In 1889, the American J. MacWilliam proposed rhythmical stimulation with an alternating current. This current should be applied to a specific place in the heart. He carried out his operation by applying electrodes to the thorax and succeeded in restarting a heart that had stopped.



7. Artificial kidney

The American John J. Abel, L.G. Rowntree and B.B Turner invented the first artificial kidney. It consisted of a set of porous tubes submerged in a colloidal solution. This demonstrated the detoxification effect of the kidney, and the blood toxins in canine blood were removed when it passed through the filters. But a filter had to be made which could filter human toxins and also an efficient anticoagulant which would enable the blood to circulate outside the body without clotting. Cellophane was found to be a reliable filter, and heparin a reliable anticoagulant. In 1945, the Dutchman Willem Kolff made the first artificial kidney keeping all the above facts in mind. Kolff’s kidney could be used for purifying the blood of a human being suffering from renal failure. Over the years, the size of the apparatus was reduced considerably and patients could use mobile units and carry out dialysis at home.


8. Autopsy

The doctor who realized the importance of autopsy was the famous Greek, Galen from Pergamon. He attained this knowledge by observing the wounds of his patients and by dissecting monkeys and pigs. He had studied the laryngeal nerve and came to a conclusion that the human body had to be dissected to study its various parts. Around the 15th century, autopsy was authorized more often in the case of suspicious deaths. When Pope Alexander V died suddenly in 1410, an autopsy of his body was ordered. When the famous Flemish doctor Andre Vesale became famous in 1537, he created a chair of anatomy and surgery, thereby setting up autopsy as a fundamental medical discipline. He obtained corpses from the burgomaster of the town and is remembered as the founder of autopsy.


9. Artificial heart

The Soviet researcher Vladimir P. Demikhov implanted the first artificial heart into a dog. The American, Willem Kolff made the next attempt. The calf which had the heart implant survived for about 90 minutes. In 1982, Kolff implanted an artificial heart into a man who survived for 112 hours. The American Robert Jarvik developed an artificial heart. This heart was made of aluminium and polyurethane, and was later named Jarvik – 7. It consisted of two pumps which functioned as two natural ventricles but had to a bulky piece of equipment. But the artificial heart had too many shortcomings. Another apparatus was made, but with the risk of thrombosis (clot formation), the formation of foreign connective tissues, haemolysis (alteration of red blood cells) and malfunction due to the rupture of diaphragms.



10. Artificial blood

In 1933, the American Clark and Gollan kept some mice immersed in a liquid which flooded their lungs and should have killed them. But they stayed alive. This fluid was an emulsion of a fluorocarbon in water. These fluorocarbon molecules link up with significant quantities of oxygen present in the water. This showed the beginnings of the invention of the blood substitute. In 1967, the American, Henry A. Sloviter injected the fluorocarbon emulsion into some rabbits along with the physiological liquid and some albumen. He also found that if the injected liquid is above a third in volume with respect to the blood, then the animal may die, because the substitute liquid cannot efficiently transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. The Japanese, Ryochi Naito carried out the first experiment on man by injecting himself with 200 ml of Fluosol DA, a milky looking artificial blood.


Popular on the Web