10 Groundbreaking Medical Advancements of the 20th Century

The 20th century produced such a plethora of discoveries and advances that in some ways changed the face of medicine. The rapid progress of medicine in this era was reinforced by enormous improvements in communication between scientists throughout the world. Here are 10 medical advancements of the 20th century, one from each decade! 

1906: The Year Of Vitamins!
Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins suggested the existence of vitamins (initially termed “accessory food factors”) and concluded that they are essential to health. He received the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. His works include Newer Aspects of the Nutrition Problem (1922), The Problems of Specificity in Biochemical Catalysis (1931), and Chemistry and Life (1933).

1913: The First Cardiologist
Dr. Paul Dudley White became one of America’s first cardiologists, a doctor specializing in the heart and its functions. He explored the electrocardiograph and its potential as a diagnostic tool. Paul’s sister died at an early age from rheumatic heart disease and his father, from coronary heart disease. These losses might have shaped his interest in this field.

1922: Insulin Is In The Market
Insulin was used to treat diabetes for the first time. On January 11, 1922, Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old diabetic who lay dying at the Toronto General Hospital, was given the first injection of insulin. However, the extract was impure and Thompson suffered a severe allergic reaction. A second dose was injected on January 23, completely eliminating the glycosuria that was typical of diabetes without causing any obvious side-effects.

1937: Blood Banks Are Now At Your Service
Bernard Fantus started the first blood bank at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, using a 2% solution of sodium citrate to preserve the blood. Refrigerated blood lasted for ten days.  World War II spurred Fantus on as he wanted to use the blood from people stateside to save the lives of U.S. soldiers overseas. He thus spent years in the laboratory perfecting methods of transfusion.

1943: Streptomycin’s Birthday
Microbiologist Selman A. Waksman discovered the antibiotic streptomycin, later used in the treatment of tuberculosis and other diseases. In 1952, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology of the National Academy of Sciences is given in his honor.

1954: A Life-Saving Transplant
Dr. Joseph E. Murray performs the first kidney transplant between identical twins. In Operating Room 2 of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Murray transplanted a healthy kidney donated by Ronald Herrick into his twin brother Richard, who was dying of chronic nephritis.  Murray shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990 with E. Donnall Thomas for their discoveries concerning “organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease.

1967: A New Life
South African heart surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant. On 3 December 1967, Barnard transplanted the heart of accident-victim Denise Darvall into the chest of 54-year-old Louis Washkansky, with Washkansky regaining full consciousness and being able to easily talk with his wife, before dying 18 days later of pneumonia.

1978: The Unusual Baby
The very first test-tube baby was born in the U.K. In 1977, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards successfully carried out a pioneering conception which resulted in the birth of the world’s first baby to be conceived by IVF, Louise Brown on 25 July 1978, in Oldham General Hospital, Greater Manchester, UK.

1983: Causative Agent Of The Biggest Epidemic Is Found
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was identified. In 1983, Luc Montagnier’s team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris discovered HIV‑1. In 2008, Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi from his team were awarded the Nobel Prize for the isolation and characterization of HIV-1.

1996: The Year Of Successful Cloning
Dolly the sheep became the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly was cloned by Keith Campbell, Ian Wilmut, and colleagues at the Roslin Institute. She had three mothers: one provided the egg, another the DNA, and a third carried the cloned embryo to term.

2000: The Biggest Collaboration Is Started
The first draft of the human genome is announced; the finalized version is released three years later. Funding came from the US government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as numerous other groups from around the world. The finished human genome is a mosaic, not representing any one individual.

1. Medical Advances Timeline. Available from: https://www.infoplease.com/math-science/health/medical-advances-timeline (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
2. History of Medicine. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/science/history-of-medicine/Insulin (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
3. Frederick Gowland Hopkins. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Gowland_Hopkins (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
4. Paul Dudley White. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Dudley_White (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
5. Insulin. Available from:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
6. Bernard Fantus. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Fantus (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
7. Selman Waksman. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selman_Waksman (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
8. Joseph Murray. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Murray (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
9. Christiaan Barnard. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiaan_Barnard (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
10. History of in-vitro fertilisation. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_in_vitro_fertilisation#First_baby (Accessed on 27 November 2019)
11. HIV. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV(Accessed on 27 November 2019)
12. Dolly (sheep). Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_(sheep)(Accessed on 27 November 2019)
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