Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries

jshauser at jshauser at
Thu Aug 27 00:23:39 EST 1998

In article <35e48d82.1121898 at>,
  mike.conrad at wrote:
> In November, Yale University Press will publish
> "Medicine's Ten Greatest Discoveries", as written by
> Gerald W. Friedland and Meyer Friedman.
> A little preview, in chronological order:
>    1543 - Andreas Vesalius presents "De
>  Humani Corporis Fabrica," or "The
>  Structure of the Human Body," which de-
>  tailed the anatomy of the human body.  He
>  was the first to point out that without
>  bones, human beings would be mushy
>  blobs.  "It presented medicine with the
>  precious gift of the scientific method with
>  which to approach an infinite number of
>  future medical problems."
>    1628 - William Harvey published "De
>  Motu Cordis" or "On the Motion of the
>  Heart," in which he described the func-
>  tions of the heart and the circulation of
>  blood.  Introducing his discovery of circu-
>  lation, Harvey wrote that his findings
>  were "of so novel and unheard-of charac-
>  ter, that I not only fear injury to myself
>  from the envy of a few, but I tremble lest
>  I have mankind at large for my enemies."
>    1675 - Anton Leeuwenhoek, a haber-
>  dasher and part-time janitor, looking at a
>  drop of rainwater under a microscope,
>  discovered "little animals" - or bacte-
>  ria, a cause of myriad diseases.
>    1796 - By using cowpox, which causes
>  a mild disease in human beings, to pro-
>  tect a person from the deadlier smallpox,
>  Edward Jenner discovered vaccination.
>  His method of injecting dead bacteria or
>  their toxins helped eradicate smallpox,
>  and protects against bubonic plague,
>  chickenpox, cholera, diphtheria, influ-
>  enza, measles, mumps, rabies, typhoid fe-
>  ver, tetanus and other diseases.
>    1842 - Crawford Long, using ether to
>  prevent his patients from feeling pain, de-
>  veloped surgical anesthesia.
>    1895 - Wilhelm Roentgen discovered
>  the X-ray beam, and developed one of the
>  most important diagnostic tools.
>    1907 - Ross Harrison figured out how
>  to grow living cells outside the body.
>  "It made possible the study of living organ-
>  isms at the cellular and even the molecu-
>  lar level and the development of modern
>  vaccines ... and abetted the search for
>  the causes of cancer (and AIDS).  Indeed,
>  because of tissue culture, more has been
>  learned about the basic mechanisms of
>  disease in the past 50 years than in the
>  previous 5,000."
>    1912 - Nikolai Anichkov discovered
>  that cholesterol was responsible for coro-
>  nary artery disease, currently the world at s
>  most deadly disease.
>    1928 - Alexander Fleming discovered
>  penicillin, which led the way for the devel-
>  opment of other antibiotics to treat infec-
>  tions.
>    1950-53 - Maurice Wilkins did the pio-
>  neering work of isolating a single fiber of
>  DNA and examining it, which James Wat-
>  son and Francis Crick used to develop
>  their own double helix model of DNA, the
>  heredity-bearing molecule.  Wilkins
>  shared the Nobel Prize with them for the
>  discovery, which opened the door to ge-
>  netics research in 1962.
> All great men, to be sure, but my own vote goes to Jenner for his
> courage and the amazing intuitive leap involved... not to mention the
> number of lives saved.
> Mike
> ----
> "I know what your problem is: you watch too much television."

Well my vote goes to Florence Nightengale for recognizing the importance of
educated nurses in the care of the sick and dying in hospitals and
documenting her work as one of the first epidemiologists. She is the pioneer
and founder of modern nursing in the world. There is little doubt in my mind
that without educated and professional nurses delivering care to patients and
carrying out orders from physicians modern healthcare would not be what it is
today! Her contribution to medicine is not as *glittzey* but nonetheless as


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