Arst.ch has previously looked at some of our overall scientific milestones, as well as those in gaming and gambling. This page takes a brief look at some of the most significant scientific developments that have shaped medicine and global healthcare in recent times.
Even though man has walked the Earth for over 200,000 years, most of the key scientific medical breakthroughs have happened in a comparatively short space of time, with many of early forms of medicines, drugs and operative procedures being developed over the last 100 years. Before then, humans relied mostly on natural remedies involving plants and herbs – many of which were ineffective or had no scientifically-proven health benefits.
The start of the 20th century saw early (and quite dangerous) methods of x-ray being developed, as well as the discovery of histamine (the chemical produced by the body when an allergic reaction occurs) and insulin, which led to the understanding of how diabetes is caused.
However, most will point to the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s and subsequent development of antibiotics as one of the most significant medical milestones of the 20th century. Antibiotics have dramatically reduced death dates due to infection, particularly since the 1950s.
Other noteworthy mid-19th century medical breakthroughs include the development of vaccinations (particularly against polio, Hepatitis B and smallpox, which have all been almost eradicated as a result).
Moving on to the 1970s, the development of medical imaging techniques i.e. CT and MRI scans, enabled doctors to locate diseased tissue, particularly tumors, in which otherwise these illnesses would have gone undetected.
A final surgical technique that has seen rapid development and continuous improvement in terms of patient survival rates over the last century is transplantations. The first heart transplant was carried out in 1967, the first liver transplant in 1963 and kidney transplant in 1960.