Here are the top 10 greatest discoveries in medicine of all time, showing how some medical breakthroughs have revolutionized the world:
10. The Human Retrovirus (HIV)
Competing scientists Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier separately discover a new retrovirus later dubbed HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and identify it as the causative agent of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) – 1980′s.
Frederick Hopkins and a few other scientists discover (in the early 1900′s) that some diseases are caused by deficiencies of certain nutrients, later called vitamins. Through feeding experiments with laboratory animals, Hopkins concludes that these “accessory food factors” are essential to health.
Frederick Banting and his colleagues discover the hormone insulin (1920′s), which helps balance blood sugar levels in diabetes patients and allows them to live normal lives. Before insulin, diabetes meant a slow and certain death.
Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon. When insulin is absent, glucose is not taken up by body cells and the body begins to use fat as an energy source or gluconeogenesis. For example, by transfer of lipids from adipose tissue to the liver for mobilization as an energy source.
7. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid)
The discovery of the DNA was made by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher. It was first called as a “nuclein” because it resides in the nucleus of a cell. The first correct image of the DNA was made as a suggestion by James D. Watson and Francis Crick based on image diffraction done by Rosalind Franklin. DNA is the blue print of a person because it holds the instructions how to build up some of the components of the other various cells and tissues of the body.
6. Blood Circulatory system
In 1242, the Arabian physician, Ibn al-Nafis, became the first person to accurately describe the process of pulmonary circulation, for which he is sometimes considered the father of circulatory physiology. Although some of the earliest people already had the thought of the system, it was in the year 1628 that William Harvey announced that the discovery of the human circulatory system was his. He performed several tests and wrote an influential book, and these convinced the medical world to believe in the genuineness of the discovery. Harvey was not able to identify the capillary system connecting arteries and veins; these were later described by Marcello Malpighi.
Also important to mention, Austrian biologist Karl Landsteiner and his group discovered four blood groups and develop a system of classification. Knowledge of the different blood types is crucial to performing safe blood transfusions, now a common practice.
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen is the discoverer of X-Ray. He tested a Crooks Tube with a black paper around it and put electricity in it. X-Ray is considered one of the most important discoveries of all-time. It shows where your bones broke and see them entirely. Röntgen’s first X-ray picture was of his wife’s hand.
X-Ray allows us to see inside the human body, without having to perform dangerous surgeries. As well as seeing anomalies in the human body, X-rays have helped hugely in dentistry, allowing a dentist to spot cavities before they turn in to painful abscesses.
With the use of the x-ray in medicine, scientists have been able to find the cause of many diseases, and how to treat them.
Anesthetics are easily one of the most important medical advances in surgical operations. By preventing pain during surgery, surgeons were given the ability to work in completely new ways with the human body, with a lower chance from complications such as shock.
With anesthetics, pain no longer became such a huge factor in operations. Not only did this reduce the risk of shock, but it also allowed for more complex and intricate surgical procedures.
3. Germ Theory
Germ theory (discovered by French chemist Louis Pasteur) allowed our scientist to find the major causes behind disease, and created a whole new understanding on why cleanliness was important, as opposed to the old practice of surrounding oneself with bad smells to ward off bad influences. At that time, the origin of diseases such as cholera, anthrax and rabies was a mystery.
The discovery of germ theory helped bring the knowledge of the importance of sanitation, and is one of the biggest factors in extending human life by prevention of disease.
Germ theory might have been the discovery of bacteria, but the discovery of penicillin was the moment that the medical profession finally had a way to fight back against infections that would have once cost people their lives.
Penicillin became the starting point for a whole string of antibiotics, both broad and narrow spectrum. This new way of treatment meant that amputations were significantly reduced, gum infections could be treated, and infections of the blood were no longer fatal.
Edward Jenner faced great adversity when he announced his discovery of vaccination. However, the discovery of vaccination has helped to greatly reduce some of the world’s deadliest epidemics and diseases, from cholera, influenza and measles, to the bubonic plague.
Thanks to vaccination, we no longer have to deal with some of the world’s deadliest and most infectious diseases, which have plagued humankind for millennia.