Interesting Moments in the Evolution of Medicine


Did you know that the first mention in history about treatments was in ancient Egypt?

The history of medicines is fascinating not only due to realizing medicines’ contribution to life expectancy but also due to remarkable personalities’ contribution to humanity through the ages.

  • Although the common belief is that the beginnings of medicine are to be traced in Ancient Greece in history of medicine, exemplified in the historical figure of Hippocrates and the Hippocratic oath of doctors, in fact Egyptians preceded the Greeks when in 1500 BC they attempted to imprint in Papyrus Ebers . It is preserved at Leipzig University Library, almost five meters in length, numerous prescriptions and seven hundreds of medicines of that time. Anderson in his book Making Medicines: A Brief History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals, presented the origin of the term pharmacy that derived from Egyptian God Thoth, having the role of writer, “was known as ph-ar-imki, which translates as warrant of security” and Egyptian Goddess “Isis, the wife of God Osiris, revealed the secrets of pharmacy to her son Horus” .
  • In Greece, in the island o Cos a 70 volumes Hippocratean Corpus was found written by Hippocrates around 400 BC . A theory was developed that defined disease a “the result of an excess of one” of “four liquid humours – blood, phlegm, bile and black bile”. Thus, Hippocrates, the widely known as father of medicine, influenced humanity by establishing a scientific approach and prescribing to a patient a medicine that can be seen as an ancestor of the commonly-used aspirin.
  • In 15th century Leonardo da Vinci being a brilliant mind had curiosity in human body and was very interested in human anatomy.
  • The invention of the microscope by Zacharius Janssen in 1590 was a milestone in the history of medicine and a fundamental precursor of the revolutionary discoveries that would follow.
  • 19th century was full of developments contributing to health such as anesthetics, syringe discovery by Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood, Louis Pasteur’s vaccines for anthrax, rabies and the establishment of the germ theory of disease.
  • The 19th century ends with one of the greatest drug developments, aspirin by Felix Hoffman.
  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming contributing to antibiotic developments providing better health outcomes in humanity.
  • During the same decade in Cook Country Hospital in Chicago, the first blood bank was established by Bernard Fantus .
  • Ten years later, the first cardiac pacemaker was invented by John Hopps
  • DNA’s structure was studied by Rosalind Franklin, James Watson and Francis Crick
  • In 1967, in Cape Town will be remembered for the first human heart transplant by Dr. Christian Bernard achieving one of the most important developments of 1960s.
  • A decade later developments continued to improve global health with the computerized axial tomography, CAT-Scans, that was a breakthrough invention by Robert S. Ledley.
  • 1978 is a milestone in history for the birth of the first test-tube baby by Robert G. Edwards, who was awarded with Nobel Prize in 2010 for his revolutionary achievement of “in vitro fertilization”.
  • In 1997, the first clone in history was a reality by Ian Wilmut and his team, while the name Dolly had become the most famous sheep .
  • One more Nobel Prize was awarded to Harald Zur Hausen who along with his team, made an important discovery for cancer cause related to infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and led in 2006 to the first vaccine for cancer.
  • The latest milestone in the history of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry was achieved in 2017, already considered to be a landmark year as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Kymriah as the first gene therapy.  Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T, is the latest revolution in medicine because this is the first time that a patient is treated by his/her own cells which are taken from his/her own blood, are changed in laboratory and infused back to patient.
  • In New York, in March 2018 an ePharma Dr. Emmanuel Fombu  is confident that both VR and AI will revolutionize health and treatments in ways which cannot been foreseen, while the healthcare model will inevitably change “from the transactional fee-for-service model to a value-based holistic model with a new motto: prevent, intercept, cure” reminding us of holistic approaches from the ages of Hippocrates .

The history of medicine could easily fill with books a whole library. Those moments were a very brief overview of the history of medicine, pioneers and Nobel prize winners had the vision to save lives. Their achievements were interrelated with the available technology  or the technological inventions they offered to humanity.

Discussing about innovation, last week, it was announced that “Sanofi and Google will establish a new virtual Innovation Lab “

“We stand on the forefront of a new age for biology and human health, with the opportunity to transform healthcare through partnerships with pioneering technology and analytics companies,” says Ameet Nathwani, M.D., Chief Digital Officer, Chief Medical Officer & Executive Vice President, Medical at Sanofi.

“Combining Sanofi’s biologic innovations and scientific data with Google’s industry-leading capabilities, from cloud computing to state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, we aspire to give people more control over their health and accelerate the discovery of new therapies.”


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