The Year in Medical History


1 Jan – German scientist William Rontgen announced his discovery of x-rays (1896).

1 Jan – All cigarette packages sold in the US were required to include the US Surgeon General’s warning “Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health (1966)

1 Jan – The first law requiring fluoridation of public water supplies became active in Connecticut (1967).

1 Jan – The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) enacted a policy to remove accreditation from all hospitals allowing indoor smoking (1992).

1 Jan – Iowa became the first state to ban mercury (thimerosal) in all vaccines used in children (2006).

4 Jan – Dr. William West Grant performed what was probably the first successful appendectomy, on Mary Gartside (1885).

6 Jan – Diphenylhydantoin (phenytoin) was approved as an anti-epileptic drug by the US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) (1953).

10 Jan – Drs. Hubert Loring and C.E. Schwerdt at Stanford University isolated the polio virus (1947).

11 Jan – Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a US medical degree (1849).

15 Jan – The Pemberton Medicine Company, known today as the Coca Cola Company, was incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia (1889).

21 Jan – First medical pamphlet in America, covering smallpox, was published (1677).

2 Feb – To combat a deadly epidemic, dog sleds from Anchorage reach Nome with diphtheria serum, saving lives and inspiring the Iditarod Race (1925).

3 Feb – The world’s first baby conceived by embryo transplant was born in Long Beach, CA (1984).

4 Feb – Dr. M. S. Roberts performed the longest surgery in medical history, lasting four days. He drained a nine-foot circumference ovarian cyst of Mrs. Gertrude Levandowski, removing 200 lbs of fluid at 120 drops per minute and then excising the remainder of the 100 lb cyst (1951).

23 Feb – The first US pharmacy college, the Philadelphia College of Apothecaries, was founded (1821).

27 Feb – US patent awarded to the drug and dye firm Bayer for the new pain killer, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), popularly known as aspirin (1900).

1 Mar – Rebecca Lee became the first black women to earn a US medical degree (1864).

19 Mar – CSS Georgiana was destroyed on her maiden voyage while carrying munitions, medicine and merchandise (1863).

30 Mar – American Surgeon Crawford Long used ether for surgical anesthesia for the first time (1842).

1 Apr – English physician Joseph Lister completed a series of 11 compound fracture repairs using antiseptic technique. When the results were published in Lancet, his techniques became standard of practice worldwide (1867).

2 Apr – Francis Crick and James Watson published an article in Nature correctly describing the double helix nature of DNA (1953).

4 Apr – Professor C. Glen King of the University of Pittsburgh isolated vitamin C (1932).

24 Apr – Sigmund Freud published his famous paper, Das Ich und das Es, outlining his concept of the Id, the Ego, and the Super-Ego (1923).

1 May – The director of Japanese Chisso Corporation hospital announced the outbreak of an unknown disease of the central nervous system, later known as Minamata Disease, which was caused by mercury waste in the food and water supply (1956).

3 May – First US medical college opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1765).

7 May – The American Medical Association was founded and Dr. Nathaniel Chapman was elected as its first president (1847).

7 May – The Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the first modern medical centers in the United States, was founded under the tutelage of pathologist William Henry Welch, surgeon William Stewart Halsted, internist William Osler, and gynecologist Howard Atwood Kelly (1889).

14 May – British physician Edward Jenner administered the first vaccine (cowpox) found to be effective against smallpox (1796).

14 May – Lina Medina, the youngest mother in history at age five years, seven months and 17 days, gave birth to Gerardo Medina by caesarean section (1939). The biological father is unknown.

1 Jun – The Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choking victims was published in the Journal Emergency Medicine (1974).

10 Jun – New York passed the first law effectively regulating medical practice (1760).

20 Jun – On La Noche Triste, Aztec warriors drove Spaniards under Hernan Cortez out of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), but the smallpox epidemic that had just begun in the city decimated the populace and ensured ultimate Spanish victory (1520).

21 Jun – The first graduate of the first US medical school, John Archer, graduated with a bachelor of medicine degree (1765).

1 Jul – American President Grover Cleveland secretly underwent a successful surgery on the yacht Oneida to remove a verrucous carcinoma in his mouth and jaw (1893).

6 Jul – Rabies vaccine developed by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux used on the first human patient, nine year old Joseph Meister (1885).

17 Jul – The first US dental school, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, was founded (1867).

10 Aug – German chemist Felix Hoffman, employed at the Bayer Company, discovered acetylsalicylic acid. Later trademarked by Bayer as Aspirin, it is one of the most important drugs in history (1897).

12 Aug – Dr. Joseph Lister first used carbolic acid as a surgical disinfectant. The patient was James Greenless, aged 12, who had a leg fracture from being run over by a cart (1865).

31 Aug – The London cholera epidemic spread to the Soho District, killing 127 people on or near Broad Street in the first three days. Physician John Snow tracked the source to the water pump on Broad Street, and when the handle to the pump was removed on 8 Sep, the outbreak dwindled (1854).

4 Sep – Meningitis vaccine was first offered in Great Britain (2006).

6 Sep – Human insulin was first produced by genetic engineering using E.coli bacteria. This improved insulin availability for diabetic patients (1978).

28 Sep – Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin at Saint Mary’s Hospital in London when he noticed a petri dish contaminated by blue-green (Penicillium notatum) mold with a halo of impaired staphylococcal growth around the mold (1928).

1 Oct – Allied troops entering Naples discovered an ongoing typhus epidemic among the civilian population with over 400 fatalities. A mass delousing program with DDT aborted the outbreak (1943).

19 Oct – Albert Schatz isolated Streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis (1943).

30 Oct – The first successful kidney transplant in Great Britain was performed by Michael Woodruff in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (1960).

1 Nov – Boston Female Medical School, the first such school in the world exclusively for women, opened its doors to the first class of twelve (1848).

1 Nov – Dr. J. E. Gillman announced the first x-ray treatment for breast cancer (1901).

4 Nov – Benjamin F. Palmer received the first US patent for an artificial leg (1846).

10 Nov – Dr. Rudolph Matas of Louisiana anesthetized a patient for surgery in the spinal, subarachnoid space, thus pioneering spinal anesthesia (1899).

29 Nov – Vivien Thomas and Alfred Blalock performed the first successful human surgery to treat Blue Baby Syndrome caused by the Tetralogy of Fallot (1944).

9 Dec – After the conclusion of the main portion of the Nuremberg Trials, the Doctors’ Trial began, in which 23 Nazi physicians and others were tried for inhuman experimentation and mass murder Seven were acquitted (1946).

10 Dec – In the Brown Dog Riots, after passage of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, medical students and feminists clashed with London police over vivisection practices in medical education (1907).

17 Dec – Davina Thompson survived the first heart, lung and liver transplant in history (1986).

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