The Making and Life of a Registered Nurse in the Era of COVID-19: -Chapter Seventeen–A Brief History of Medicine

This chapter will be devoted to the history of medicine. The most effective means to do so is via a time line. The source I am using here is from the website PubMed Central and is by Rachel Hajar, M.D.

History of Medicine Timeline

2600 BC The Egyptian Imhotep describes the diagnosis and treatment of 200 diseases

500 BC Alcmaeon of Croton distinguished veins from arteries

460 BC Birth of Hippocrates, the Greek father of medicine begins the scientific study of medicine and prescribes a form of aspirin

300 BC Diocles wrote the first known anatomy book

280 BC Herophilus studies the nervous system

130 AD Birth of Galen. Greek physician to gladiators and Roman emperors

c60AD Pedanius Dioscorides writes De Materia Medica

910 Persian physician Rhazes identifies smallpox

1010 Avicenna writes The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine

1249 Roger Bacon invents spectacles

1489 Leonardo da Vinci dissects corpses

1543 Vesalius publishes findings on human anatomy in De Fabrica Corporis Humani

1590 Zacharius Jannssen invents the microscope

1628 William Harvey publishes An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals which forms the basis for future research on blood vessels, arteries and the heart

1656 Sir Christopher Wren experiments with canine blood transfusions

1670 Anton van Leeuwenhoek discovers blood cells

1683 Anton van Leeuwenhoek observes bacteria

1701 Giacomo Pylarini gives the first smallpox inoculations

1747 James Lind publishes his Treatise of the Scurvy stating that citrus fruits prevent scurvy

1763 Claudius Aymand performs the first successful appendectomy

1796 Edward Jenner develops the process of vaccination for smallpox, the first vaccines for any disease

1800 Sir Humphry Davy discovers the anesthetics properties of nitrous oxide

1816 Rene Laennec invents the stethoscope

1818 James Blundell performs the first successful transfusion of human blood

1842 Crawford W. Long uses ether as a general anesthetic

1844 Dr. Horace Wells uses nitrous oxide as an anesthetic

1846 William Morton, a dentist, is the first to publish the process of using anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide

1849 Elizabeth Blackwell is the first woman to gain a medical degree from Geneva Medical College in New York

1847 Ignaz Semmelweis discovers how to prevent the transmission of puerperal fever

1853 Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood develop the syringe

1857 Louis Pasteur identifies germs as cause of disease

1867 Joseph Lister develops the use of antiseptic surgical methods and publishes Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery

1870 Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur establish the germ theory of disease

1879 First vaccine developed for cholera

1881 First vaccine developed for anthrax by Louis Pasteur

1882 First vaccine for developed for rabies by Louis Pasteur

1882 Koch discovers the TB bacillus

1887 First contact lenses developed

1890 Emil von Behring discovers antitoxins and develops tetanus and diphtheria vaccines

1895 Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovers X-rays

1896 First vaccine developed for typhoid fever

1897 First vaccine developed for Bubonic plague

1899 Felix Hoffman develops aspirin

1901 Karl Landsteiner introduces the system to classify blood into A, B, AB, and O groups

1913 Dr. Paul Dudley White pioneers the use of the electrocardiograph – ECG

1921 Edward Mellanby discovers that lack of vitamin D in the diet causes rickets

1921 Earle Dickson invented the Band-Aid

1922 Insulin first used to treat diabetes

1923 First vaccine developed for diphtheria

1926 First vaccine developed for whooping cough

1927 First vaccine developed for tuberculosis

1927 First vaccine developed for tetanus

1928 Sir Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

1935 First vaccine developed for yellow fever

1935 Percy Lavon Julian synthesized the medicines physostigmine for glaucoma and cortisone for rheumatoid arthritis

1937 First vaccine developed for typhus

1937 Bernard Fantus pioneers the use of the first blood bank in Chicago

1942 Doctor Karl Theodore Dussik publishes the first paper on medical ultrasonic – ultrasound

1943 Selman A. Waksman discovers the antibiotic streptomycin

1945 First vaccine developed for influenza

1950 John Hopps invented the first cardiac pacemaker

1952 Paul Zoll develops the first cardiac pacemaker

1952 Jonas Salk develops the first polio vaccine

1952 Rosalind Franklin uses X-ray diffraction to study the structure of DNA

1953 James Watson and Francis Crick work on the structure of the DNA molecule

1954 Gertrude Elion patented a leukemia-fighting drug

1954 Dr. Joseph E. Murray performs the first kidney transplant

1955 Jonas Salk develops the first polio vaccine

1963 Thomas Fogarty invented the balloon embolectomy catheter

1964 First vaccine developed for measles

1967 First vaccine developed for mumps

1967 Dr. Christian Bernard performs the first human heart transplant

1970 First vaccine developed for rubella

1974 First vaccine developed for chicken pox

1975 Robert S. Ledley invents CAT-Scans

1977 First vaccine developed for pneumonia

1978 First test-tube baby is born

1978 First vaccine developed for meningitis

1980 Smallpox is eradicated

1981 First vaccine developed for hepatitis B

1983 HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is identified

1984 Alec Jeffreys devises a genetic fingerprinting method

1985 Willem J. Kolff invented the artificial kidney dialysis machine

1992 First vaccine developed for hepatitis A

1996 Dolly the sheep becomes the first clone

2006 First vaccine to target a cause of cancer

The most influential doctors in the history of medicine

The following information was taken from the web site


Hippocrates is considered to be the father of modern medicine. He lived in Greece between 469 and 470 B.C., establishing the doctrine of Hippocratic medicine and initiating a revolution in this field of knowledge.

The hippocratic doctrine was separated from mysticism and philosophical thought. Through observation and deduction, specific procedures were established to promote patient improvement – such as the use of clean water or wine to clean wounds or giving importance to rest as part of treatment.

Hippocrates was the first physician to describe diseases as “acute,” “chronic,” or “epidemic, laying the foundation for today’s medical language. His knowledge of thoracic surgery is relevant even to modern medicine, and his school gave rise to the Hippocratic Oath, a document that indicates the ethical basis to follow during the practice of medicine.

2. Pergamon Galen

Galen was a doctor who lived approximately between 130 and 210 A.D. He is credited with creating an empirical model for medical knowledge, rooted in experimentation with animal models that allowed him to draw conclusions about the human body.

Galen was an avid anatomist and physiologist, who came to discover both the function of blood-bearing arteries and that urine originates in the kidneys. Thanks to him, rapid progress was made in the identification and description of various physiological structures, such as the seven pairs of cranial nerves or the genitourinary system.

3. Ibn Sina – Avicenna

Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in the West was a great thinker within the Muslim culture. Ibn Sina was originally from Persia, where he participated in the creation of medical, philosophical, mathematical, and physical knowledge, among other categories. His medical knowledge was incredibly influential, especially between the 11th and 17th centuries.

“The Canon of Medicine,” a five-volume encyclopedia, was a book written by Ibn Sina that was used as a basic medical textbook practically until the 18th century. In it, he considered that every disease has natural causes, not necessarily theological.

It was within this framework that he brought together all the medical knowledge available at that time in an incredibly concise form.

4. Andrea Vesalio

Andrés Vesalio wrote one of the most important books in the field of anatomy. His work, “De humani corporis manufactures“translated as “On the tissue of the human body”, elevates him as the father of modern anatomy.

Vecellio was born in 1514 in Brussels. a city that at that time was part of the Netherlands, but later became a professor at the University of Padua before becoming the imperial court doctor of Charles V, emperor of the Habsburgs, as his father and grandfather had done before him.

5. René Laënnec

René Laënnec, born in Brittany in 1781, was a renowned French doctor in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Their contribution to modern medicine is key, mainly because of the invention of the stethoscope and the foundation of the clinical practice of auscultation.

In addition to characterizing and classifying various lung diseases, such as pneumonia or emphysema, he was also the first person to describe cirrhosis in detail, common liver disease in alcoholics.

6. Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner was an English doctor, born in 1749. He is considered by many to be the father of immunology, in addition to having been a member of the Royal Society as a zoologist.

He was the inventor of the vaccination (whose name refers to the cattle used to carry out the procedure). The first vaccine was used to immunize patients against smallpox, developed from the smallpox virus, also pathogenic but of much lesser severity.

It is considered to be the first person to use vaccination to slow the epidemic progression of a disease.

7. Ignaz Semmelweis

Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor who became nicknamed “the savior of childbirth.” since the patients who gave birth in her clinic had mortality rates much lower than was usual for most hospitals at the time, at the beginning of the 19th century.

The contribution of Ignaz Semmelweis was enormous, although went unnoticed by the scientific community due to the explosive character of Semmelweis himself, who was remarkably reluctant to be criticized for his theories.

The simple fact of cleaning hands after autopsies and before intervening on women in labor, devised by Semmelweis, was incredibly innovative, as at that time the pathogenic effects of bacteria were unknown.

8. Sir Joseph Lister

Another champion of antiseptic practices At the clinical level, Joseph Lister was born in 1827 and died in 1912. Lister used the knowledge Louis Pasteur generated about microbes to improve his clinical practice, linking the theory of germs with medicine and surgery.

Lister’s aseptic practices included disinfection of the operating room, clothing, instruments, and the hands of surgeons, to avoid the appearance of infections and gangrene in patients undergoing surgery.

Despite the initial rejection of his theories (as well as Semmelweis’), the visible positive results of his practices made them very popular, becoming key aseptic practices in today’s surgery.

9. John Snow

Unfortunately called just like an important character in the Throne Game – the fantasy saga “Song of Fire and Ice”, John Snow was an important doctor in the early 19th century. considered the founder of modern epidemiology.

His epidemiological investigation into the origin of cholera outbreaks in Victorian London enabled him to detect contamination problems in the city’s water supply, demonstrating the importance of epidemiological studies for public health.

10. Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud needs virtually no introduction. He is the father of the doctrine of psychoanalysis, which he founded while practicing as a neurologist in Austria.

He delved into the unconscious mechanisms of the psyche, and how these influence our preferences, desires, longings, and phobias.

Despite several of his erroneous theories about the psyche and human behavior, his vision initiated research into the psychological element as part of individual health. His life and work continue to be studied in different disciplines.

11. Sir William Osler

Sir William Osler (1849 – 1919) is known as the “Doctor of Doctors”, a well-deserved honor.

Canadian in origin but settled for most of his professional and academic career in Oxford, UK, his contributions are of immense importance to modern clinical practice.

Much of its success lies in his bedside learning educational doctrine. Through this, curricular practices and contact with patients became key pillars in the training of any physician today.

12. Robert Koch

Dr. Robert Koch was an instrumental German physician in the establishment of modern bacteriological knowledge.

It established a methodology to identify the causal agents of bacterial diseases, such as cholera, tuberculosis or even anthrax.

He received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905 for his research on tuberculosis. Many of his students also had a great impact on far-reaching scientific and medical breakthroughs.

13. Sir Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming was a doctor born in 1881, in Darvel, Scotland.

It is known by the entire medical-scientific community for the crucial discovery of penicillin the first antibiotic used by humans consciously, which opened the way for the research and application of other antibiotic substances, saving countless lives since then.

In addition to this famous discovery, Fleming also discovered the antimicrobial enzyme known as lysozyme.

14. Jonas Salk

Dr. Jonas Salk (1914 – 1995) is known for having created the first polio vaccine relatively common viral disease for much of the last century.

Jonas Salk was the first to generate a polio vaccine that used non-infectious viral particles, unlike other vaccines of the time that used “attenuated” versions of the viruses, which could still present a risk of infection and transmission and, therefore, a significant health risk.

15. Jean-Martin Charcot

Jean-Martin Charcot was a 19th-century French neurologist, known today for his work on hysteria and hypnosis (two concepts in controversy today). He was also the first to describe multiple sclerosis.

Curiously, although hysteria was considered a mainly female disease, Jean-Martin Charcot struggled to prove that this disease also affected men, being according to him a psychological rather than a neurological disease, usually derived from past traumas suffered by the patient.

Top 10 Greatest Medical Discoveries of All Time

The following information was taken from the website and was written by Adam Sinicki.

10) Vitamins – The discovery of vitamins by Frederick Hopkins and contemporaries, accomplished through feeding studies using animals at the start of the 1900s, led to a far better understanding of nutrient and helped to prevent many illnesses and conditions that resulted from deficiencies.

9) HIV – HIV was discovered in the 1980s by Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier and following an influx of patients around the time. This discovery of course led to a greater awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex as well as to the various treatments that exist today to make the condition manageable.

8) The Circulatory System – The concept of the circulatory system was first described in 1242 by the physician Ibn al-Nafis, and first brought to prominence in 1628 by William Harvey. This led to a far better understanding of the human body in general and to many of the treatments and techniques we now take for granted.

7) X-Ray – Before x-rays repairing broken bones and identifying the cause of many other problems would have been hugely more difficult and has played a role in colouring our understanding of the human body even further. When Conrad Rontgen first discovered the technique in 1895 he used it to create an image of his wife’s hand.

6) DNA – DNA was discovered by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher and was at first known as ‘nuclein’ (what was wrong with that name?). This has led to a much better understanding of a range of diseases and illnesses, but is likely to lead to many more discoveries in the future as gene therapy becomes more widely used. Of course the discovery of DNA has also lead to many important discussions on the nature of humanity and our role in our own evolution.

5) Insulin – Before the discovery of the hormone insulin in 1920 by Frederick Banting, diabetes was a condition that would lead to a slow and unpleasant death. Today, thanks to this finding, most diabetic patients manage to live normal and full lives which has affected the lives of millions of people around the world.

4) Anesthetic – If you ever had to have an operation without any form of anesthetic then you would likely have a whole new appreciation for just how important this discovery was. Before anesthetic you had a rope to bite into and a shot of vodka…

3) Germ Theory – While we’ll get to penicillin soon enough, it wouldn’t have been possible with Louis Pasteur’s initial ‘germ theory’ which shed light on the causes of diseases and lead to many of the hygiene practices we now take for granted.

2) Vaccination – Originally in the Western World the concept of vaccination – using small doses of disease to teach the body to protect itself from certain viruses – was a controversial one. However it is only thanks to vaccinations that we have managed to stop the spread of many epidemics and even completely eradicate some of the world’s most deadly diseases.

1) Penicillin – Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, this is the one that everyone learns about in school, and was the big ‘game changer’ for modern medicine. Essentially the discovery of penicillin is responsible for the development of all the antibiotics that we use today to combat bacteria. Before that, if you got a cut on your leg and it became infected you would have had to choose between death or amputation…