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Medical advances through the millennium

Issue: "2000: The Millennium," July 31, 1999

c. 1020
Persian "Prince of Physicians" Avicenna (Abu Ali Sina) writes Canon of Medicine, a famous summation of Greco-Arabian medicine that dominates medieval medical education. c. 1050
Constantinus Africanus translates key Greco-Roman texts from the Arabic scientific revival into Latin, making available the classical teachings of Galen and Hippocrates. 1100s
"School of Salerno" in Italy, the first organized medical school in Europe, combines medical knowledge of several cultures and institutes eight-year study program for degree as "doctor." 1200s
Hundreds of charitable hospitals and monastic infirmaries established by the church for leprosy and other disease victims. 1240
Holy Roman Empire lifts ban on human dissection. New law requires licensing of doctors. 1300s through 1600s
Decimating European plagues spur scientific investigation into the spread of diseases and lay the groundwork for the introduction of public health and sanitation programs, including vaccinations, antibiotics, and quarantine. 1452-1519
Leonardo da Vinci, the first modern anatomist, records anatomical observations in more than 750 drawings. 1543
Andreas Vesalius (University of Padua) publishes the first scientific study of human anatomy. Mid 1500s Ambriose Paré, the "father of modern surgery," invents stitches and introduces advanced surgical and dental techniques. 1561-1626
Francis Bacon emphasizes inductive reasoning, a foundation for scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation. 1628
English physician William Harvey publishes the first complete theory of the circulation of blood. 1633
On the eve of Galileo's condemnation, philosopher René Descartes completes De homine, the first systematic account of the mind/body relationship. c. 1650
"English Hippocrates" Thomas Sydenman stresses a practical, sensible approach to medicine that integrates many disciplines and respects the body's self-healing ability and clinical experience. "You must go to the bedside, it is there alone you can learn disease." 1683
Dutch merchant Anton van Leeuwenhoek discovers bacteria through one of the 500+ microscopes he builds. 1700s
French "father of dentistry" Pierre Fauchard introduces mounting of crowns, full dentures, and filling of drilled-out cavities. 1784
Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal eyeglasses. Franklin reflects deist thought: "God helps them that help themselves." 1795
Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind by Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) is published, saying the march of medicine would be one of unstoppable progress. 1796
Edward Jenner administers the first officially recognized vaccination-against smallpox-leading to development of many vaccines. 1800s
Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel (1823-1884) establishes theories of heredity, a key to the development of genetics. 1839
German physiologist and histologist Theodor Schwann (1810-1882), the "father of cytology," identifies cell as basic structural unit of mammals. 1840
World's first dental college opens in Baltimore. 1846
William Morton publicly demonstrates the use of ether as the first practical anesthetic. Also, the American Medical Association is founded. 1850s
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), based upon methods used during the Crimean War, elevates the standards and perception of nurses and founds the modern nursing profession. c. 1860
Claude Bernard (1813-1878) formulates the basic principles of research and lays the groundwork for modern experimental medicine. 1862
French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) identifies the pathogenic nature of bacteria, leading to the germ theory of disease. Theory of antisepsis revolutionizes surgery. 1865
Joseph Lister introduces antiseptic methods of surgery. 1877
Robert Koch links germs with disease and exhibits how water-borne epidemics like cholera typhoid can be controlled by water filtration and heightened sanitation. 1877
Sir Patrick Manson shows that insects can carry disease, a major step in addressing tropical diseases. 1893
American surgeon Daniel Williams performs first open-heart surgery. 1898
Marie & Pierre Curie discover radium, used for the next half century to treat cancer. 1900
Austrian Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) expounds his psychoanalytic theory in The Interpretation of Dreams; American biologist Karl Landsteiner discovers human blood types, making blood transfusions possible. 1928
Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) discovers penicillin, the first antibiotic drug. 1940s
After large-scale testing of water fluoridation, many cities place fluoride in public drinking water to help prevent cavities. 1943
Streptomycin is introduced, the first antibiotic to treat tuberculosis. 1945
U.S. doctor John Julian Wild founds ultrasonic tissue diagnosis. 1952
Amniocentesis introduced to diagnose genetic disorders in fetuses. First sex-change operation is performed. 1953
In Cambridge, England, James Watson and Francis Crick uncover the structure of DNA, a landmark discovery that allows genetics to begin to transform medicine. 1954
American surgeons perform first successful organ transplant-a kidney. 1955
Polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk (1914-1995) is used widely, saving thousands of children from the crippling disease. 1956
Large-scale testing of birth-control pills is conducted. 1963
Dr. S.I. McMillen's book, None of These Diseases, outlines how biblical principles for health predate many scientific discoveries. 1965
America inaugurates Medicare system. 1969
American surgeons implant first artificial heart in a human. 1972
CAT-scan imaging system introduced. 1973
U.S. Supreme Court legalizes abortion. British scientists introduce MRI (magnetic resonance imager). 1976
The parents of comatose patient Karen Quinlan win landmark court fight to turn off her respirator; she lives for nine more years with a feeding tube. 1977
Last known cases of smallpox have been eliminated. 1978
First "test-tube" baby is born in Great Britain. 1982
American surgeons perform first implant of permanent artificial heart. Also, U.S. FDA approves first commercial application of genetic engineering (bacteria-produced insulin for diabetics). 1984
Randolph Byrd publishes landmark scientific study linking intercessory prayer, of which the patient is unaware, with enhanced recovery. 1986
Vaccine for hepatitis-B approved by FDA. 1987
New Jersey judge rules surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead has no rights to child she bore by contract for another couple and tried to keep as her own. 1990
U.S. Human Genome Project launched to identify all the estimated 80,000-100,000 genes in human DNA and determine sequences of 3 billion chemical bases that make up human DNA. 1997
Physician-assisted suicide officially becomes legal in Oregon. Supreme Court upholds states' right to ban assisted suicide but leaves door open to experimenting with assisted death. Dolly the sheep cloned. 1998
Rough draft of human genome map produced, showing locations of over 30,000 genes. Two research teams succeed in growing embryonic stem cells, raising the specter of creating spare body parts. Chicago-area physicist stokes worldwide debate by announcing he plans to produce a human clone. 1999
Frustrated with loss of physician autonomy in managed care, AMA votes to form physicians' union.

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