For centuries medical practice was based on theories. Most of the researches took place in the last one or two centuries. With the new advances, medical knowledge almost doubles every one to two days. While people are focusing on the use of MABS (monoclonal antibodies), nano-technology, gamma knife, and robotic surgeries, let’s pay tribute to the scientists who revolutionized the practice of medicine through these very commonly used medical inventions.
Medical inventions – #1:
“Not all angels have wings, some have stethoscopes!!”
Stethoscope: Just like every other “-scope”, the stethoscope is a Greek word which means; STETH–chest, SCOPE–examination. Before the 1800s, the physicians had an idea about the normal and pathologic sounds produced by heart and lungs but they had no proper method to examine it. They would put their ear on the chest, really? Yeah, in direct contact with the skin and hear the sounds in the chest. Though I have no idea about how they did it with the patient of the opposite sex??
It was in the early 19th century when a French physician started using rolled papers in a shape of a funnel to hear chest sounds. The same physician then made his own stethoscope from wood where the chest-end of that stethoscope was wider and the ear-end was smaller. Thus, the chest sound was funneled into the ear-end and was better heard. Soon after the French scientist, the idea was modified and Bi-Aural stethoscopes were invented in the mid-19th century.
Millions of Physician uses the Littman stethoscope nowadays. David Littman was an American cardiologist who introduces these into the market in the 1960s.
Medical inventions – # 2:
“Be a thermostat, not a thermometer”
Thermometer: It is logical to say that even the first of the human beings would know the difference between simple cold and hot. In the 2nd century AD, a scientist used to measure the temperature by taking the ice and boiling water as the 2 standard points of temperature measurements. Which pretty much was not applicable to humans as we don’t get ice-cold or boiled hot. Now the next logical (dumb) thing to do would be to calibrate the 2 extremes of ice and boiling water into 100 equal parts and voila, there is your scale.
To my surprise, it took scientists more than 1500 Years to figure out how to make a scale and then measure the temperature with that. The actual invention of a scale to measure the actual degrees of temperature was in the early 17th century by an Italian scientist whose name was “Fahrenheit”. Then in the early 18th century, a Sweden scientist named “Celsius” invented Celsius scale and “Kelvin” made the Kelvin scale.
There were a few complications after the scale was introduced as the correct fluid in the tube for expansion and contraction, the presence of air in the tube would tamper the fluid expansion, atmospheric pressure would affect the expansion. In short, there were many shortcomings in finding a proper method to measure temperature. Alcohol and mostly Mercury is used now in Thermometers. Infrared Thermometers have also been introduced now which measures temperature using infrared waves.
Medical inventions – #3:
“Trust is like the blood pressure, its silent, vital to good health and if abused can be deadly to good health”
Sphygmomanometer (Blood Pressure Monitor): The concept of blood inside the body was there since the early existence of humans obviously. It was BEFORE CHRIST when humans discovered that there is a circulatory system in the body. Some physicians of that time knew about the variations in PULSE. In the early 17th century some scientists wrote about the human circulatory system and then in more than a 100 years later in the 18th century, physicians got the concept of the heart connected to the vessels and pumping the blood into ‘em.
The first time a blood pressure was checked was also in the 18th century in a HORSE. That was a long glass tube inserted into a main artery of the horse. Believe it or not, the blood went up by about 6 feet in the tube. Half a century later, a scientist invented the first human sphygmomanometer. That also would use the method of inserting a needle into the artery and measuring the BP through a tube that was connected to a MERCURY COLUMN. Gradually it developed into the one we are using in hospitals now.
If the guy who measured blood pressure for the first time in a horse, wakes up today and finds out that a 15 USD Chinese made ANDROID WATCH that weighs about 10 gm can measure blood pressure, what’s he gonna think?
Medical Inventions – #4:
“Laughter is the best medicine, Its an entire regimen of antibiotics and steroids”
Antibiotics: Infections were known to human beings even thousands of years ago. When someone would get a skin cut, that place in a few days would start discharging pus and later in infection would spread. Humans did have an idea that it was something that would enter the wound and cause the damage. But they had no idea about BACTERIA and other ORGANISMS. Molded bread was used in the early past to heal wounds. Some plants extracts were used to treat infections which obviously would contain the same chemicals as our news antibiotics today.
The proper newer antibiotics in the form of pills were made in the 1930s. And its use was commonly done during the 2nd world ward and after. Penicillin was the first ever antibiotic introduced. It saved so many lives during the 2nd world war that it was called “THE MIRACLE DRUG” or “THE MAGIC HEALER”.
1945-1962 was a “GOLDEN ERA” for development of newer antibiotics. Sadly these days research on antibiotics has been very limited. In contrast, the resistance to antibiotics in bacteria and other organisms have been increasing exponentially. Which bring about the issue of humans at a great risk of getting untreatable infections in the future. These days humans are facing so many issues which are gonna put us at risk in the future. I don’t know which one are we gonna solve first?
Medical inventions – #5
“You can not make a revolution in white gloves”
Gloves: In common with nearly every advance, progress is usually influenced by a need to solve a problem identified in an existing facility. Actually, gloves were invented and used in the middle ages as a tool for protection at work. Ancient Romans used to wear gloves at meals in order to avoid heat burns from hot meat etc.
Surgical/Medical gloves were first used in the famous Johns Hopkins’s hospital, USA. Working there was a surgeon named “Halstead” who was known for precision and cleanliness at that time. One of his staff, a nurse, who later became his wife, had a rash on her hands from the chemicals she handled for surgeries. That is when her husband approached a rubber company to create rubber gloves for her hands. His wife loved the gloves, and more pairs arrived. Not long after, Halstead’s entire surgical staff wore them during operations. At the time, they assumed the primary benefit was increased dexterity and gave little thought to hygiene.
Just a couple of years later, a surgeon had the idea of sterilizing his gloves along with his surgical instruments. In the mid-19th century first, disposable surgical gloves were introduced.
Medical inventions – #6:
“Life is like the ECG, enjoy the ups and downs but when its a flat line, you are dead”
EKG: So, the presence of electrical activity in the human body was first discovered in the 1600s. This was the time when electricity was not even known to humans. The term “electrica” was used that time. A physician at that time hypothesized that time that the heart produces electrical activity in the body. But he was soon proved wrong by another scientist by an experiment when he removed the heart of a frog and the frog would still show some muscular movement. But when he removed the brain of a frog it ceased movements right away. By that time they realized there is some kind of signal that moves from the brain to the body for movements.
In the 1870s, heart electrical activity was detected for the first time. Lots of advancements were made for measuring the electrical activity in the human body. And it was in the early 1900s when a physician recorded the electrical activity of the human heart. The machine was called as “string Galvanometer” at that time. The machine that he used weighed around 250KG. Just like every other machine, that machine got smaller and lighter with further advancement. A portable rechargeable ECG machine was made in the late 1990s which were used in ambulances. Nowadays there are EKG machine the size of a smartphone. Which can be easily placed in a jacket pocket.