Throughout the history of medicine, many innovations have occurred that impacted the world and vastly transformed the future of medicine. In my opinion, the four most important innovations in medicine are Vesalius’s book and view on anatomy, inoculation and vaccination, the microscope, and MRIs and CAT scans. The 16th century contained some of the greatest innovations of all time; one in particular was Vesalius’s anatomy book, De humani corporis fabrica. Vesalius’s book was the first medical book in which illustrations were more important than the text (Bynum, 29).
Within the book were elaborately detailed illustrations of the human body and the components within it. These illustrations not only disproved Galen’s explanation of the human body, but also described anatomical structures accurately for the first time (Bynum, 30). Knowing the anatomy of the body accurately is vital for etiology, surgery and diagnosis. If you do not understand the body and how it works, than it is virtually impossible to correctly identify or diagnose, and the likelihood of an effective cure is rare. Vesalius changed the approach doctors originally had about the human body and the approach on medicine.
Vesalius’s illustrations showed where organs were correctly located, which advanced surgical operations, and also allowed for better determination for etiology. With this knowledge gained, doctors became more capable of diagnosing and prescribing accurate medicine. Vesalius’s book of anatomy was the greatest innovation at the time because it became the root and foundation for all future medical innovations. Once understanding the human anatomy and how it works, we can begin curing diseases. In the 18th century innovations sparked up, such as inoculation and vaccination, which significantly impacted society.
During this time period there was a massive universal outbreak of smallpox with a significant mortality ranging, according to circumstances, between 5% and 20% (Bynum, 72). Inoculation is the process of extracting a disease from one person and injecting a weakened version of it into someone else. Edward Jenner performed inoculation by taking some matter from a cowpox lesion on the hand of a milk maid, Sara Nelmes, and injected it into a young boy (Bynum, 74). This resulted with the boy gaining immunity to the smallpox disease.
Inoculation and vaccination are two of the most beneficial innovations of medical history because of its ability to help the immunity to disease. These innovations have led to the eradication of certain disease such as smallpox in 1979 (Bynum, 74). Above all, we still use inoculation and vaccination to this day by fighting off Influenza and Polio. Unlike other innovations, these have saved thousands if not millions of lives and help maintain universal health. Without inoculation and vaccination the only way to build up immunity to a disease was to obtain the disease and hopefully overcome it.
Also with the disease comes side effects and possibility of spreading the disease to others. Inoculation and vaccination not only protect the individual but everyone around them. Building up immunity to a disease is one thing, but discovering what makes up a disease and how it works is another. The microscope is possibly one of the greatest innovations ever to occur in the history of medicine. This is due to the extensive discoveries and lifesaving medicines we have obtained through the use of the microscope. The microscope allows the ability to view microscopic organisms and structures, which led to two major pathways in medical history.
First, was the discovery of cells, which were found to be the building block life and also have been identified as crucial constituents of the dynamics of disease processes (Bynum, 93). With the discovery of cells, came along the discovery of how cells divide and the process of reproduction of humans. This is important because Watson and Crick discovered DNA in the cells which is a huge part of genetics. The knowledge of genetic has allowed doctors to analyze diseases that are hereditary and non-hereditary. This shows how they affect the human body and also how to help and or fix the diseases.
The second pathway is the discovery of germs. With this discovery, it led to many vaccinations, and then helped with epidemiology. The discovery of germs allowed doctors to understand where certain sicknesses occur, why, and how the human body reacts. Also, the cure for rabies, by Robert Pasteur, would never have happened without the microscope. Microscopes are still a huge part of medicine today and help fight against cancer, which is the leading cause of death in America. The microscope not only allowed an understanding of new organisms but also provided new lifesaving medicines.
Microscopes are about viewing things impossible to the naked eye, but the next innovations are about viewing the body internally. The magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) and the computerized were the prime innovation of the 19th century. Both allow for a non-invasive way for viewing structures within the body. These are the most important innovations of this time period because of its ability to view the patient internally and diagnose a problem without operating. Operation was excess work and at times trial and error when trying to find a specific problem in the body.
Also, if the operation is extensive, then the patient has a longer recovery time versus and in and out session. These innovations were greatly acknowledged and even won the Nobel Prize for its developers (Bynum, 129). The MRI and CAT scan produced three-dimensional images which dramatically increased the capability of diagnoses. The MRI creates its picture by using a magnetic field and manipulating radiofrequency waves, while the CAT scan uses the computer and takes multiple images and combines them together.
Both symbolized the 1980s as power and cost of modern technology-driven medicine. They also changed the face of hospital medicine, increasing what doctors can know and do (Bynum, 130). Both innovations are still in effect today and partake in diagnosing. Many innovations have occurred throughout the history of medicine. Some of which have completely altered the way medicine. Either way, I have learned that no matter what we think we know; there is always something new to learn and discover.