I was recently reading up on the watershed moments in the history of modern medicine and I have to admit I was overwhelmed with information. The list below is the timeline since the end of the 18th century. I may decide to update the post at a later date.
1796- Small pox vaccine introduced by Edward Jenner
1846- Establishment of Anaesthesia.
William Morton demonstrates successful anaesthesia by ether. The patients could now be put to sleep and not having to worry about the patient writhing in pain during the surgery. This allowed surgeons not requiring restraints and could take their time during surgery.
1847- The connection between hygiene and infection.
It was shown by Semmelweiz that hand washing before attending to births prevented maternal mortality by a huge factor.
1867- Joseph Lister’s Asepsis Principles. He publishes a pioneering paper, “Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery” where he used 5% carbolic acid (phenol) to spray the instruments before surgery and to the wounds. He later incorporated washing of hands by surgeons and boiling of instruments. These measures which were controversial at the time reduced the post operative infection by a huge degree making it’s large-scale adoption easier.
1850 -1890– Establishment of Germ Theory
Koch’s postulates first established the causative relationship between microbe and disease- especially Cholera and Tuberculosis. The pioneering work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch made the “Germ theory” more acceptable cause of infection than the “Miasma Theory” among scientific community of the time. This set off the golden era of bacteriology where the causative organisms of many diseases were identified. The “germ theory” gained ground with the discovery of viruses in the 1890s.
1890s- The surgical cures of Halstead.
The trailblazing surgeon William Halstead taking advantage of the newly discovered anaesthetic agents, pioneered new techniques in the cure for cancer-prominent among them being radical mastectomy for breast cancer. He along with William Osler, William Welch and Howard Kelly were the “Big Four” founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Halstead in addition to exemplary work in aseptic surgery and wound healing trained several surgeons who would later become pioneers in various surgical subspecialties. Halstead in fact started the first formal residency training in surgery in the US.
1902- Einthoven invented Electrocardiogram to monitor the electrical impulses of the heart.1921- Discovery of Insulin
Candian physicians, Banting and Best discovered the hormone Insulin. Sanger would later in 1959 discover the structure of Insulin which would lead to the factory-scale synthesis and production of commercial insulin.
1928- Discovery of Penicillin and the start of the antibiotic era.
When Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin, he kickstarted the development of antibiotics for the treatment of infections. In fact most of the antibiotics that we use today are the products of the last 50 years or so.
1948- The start of the chemotherapy era for cancer.
Buoyed by the positive results of Nitrogen Mustard for Lymphomas after World War II, Sidney Farber et. al. investigated Folate analogues (Methotrexate) for the treatment of Leukemias in children. For the first time they were successful in getting remission in childhood leukemias. This gave way to the development of several chemotherapeutic agents for cancer over the decades to follow.
1950- First Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) in Canada facilitated due to the development of the Heart-Lung Machine in the 1930s.
1952- First effective Polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk who then did not patent the vaccine so that more children could receive the vaccine due to lower costs.
1950 to 1970- World’s first kidney, heart and liver transplants
1980s- First statistically significant results of Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty were published making angioplasties go mainstream.
1970s to 2000s– Development of modern diagnostic tools
Computed Tomography (CT) and Ultrasonography in the 1970s to the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in the 80s and 90s revolutionized the diagnostic abilities of modern physicians.
1970s to modern day mainstream medicine- From starting clinical trials to development of modern tools for medicine and surgery- Phacoemulsification, lasers, linear accelerator, operating microscopes, Endoscopes, laproscopes, harmonic scalpels, ECMO, Anaesthesthetic agents and machines, Robotic surgery, Navigational surgery- I’m literally out of breath listing them.