Explore the History of Medical Discoveries

Posted by Karen Buckley • January 26th, 2012

Over 200 years, the New England Journal of Medicine has published early descriptions of disease, groundbreaking new treatments for particular conditions, and the first steps toward significant changes in how physicians care for patients.  The 200th anniversary website has an interactive timeline that allows you to search and rediscover the progress of centuries past.   Each image links to historical information or the full text of the article, as originally written in NEJM.

Some of the earliest NEJM milestones include:

Beginnings of Anesthesia | November 18, 1846

Henry Jacob Bigelow, a Boston surgeon, reported a breakthrough in the search for surgical anesthetics with the first uses of inhaled ether in 1846. This medical advance allowed patients to remain sedated during operations ranging from dental extraction to amputation.

Early Report of a Successful Hysterectomy| May 3, 1855

The patient was a 34-year-old woman with a tumor of the uterus that caused a life-threatening hemorrhage with every menstrual cycle. The last resort, the authors wrote, was to plan for removal of the uterus.

Early Description of Platelets | June 7, 1906

James Homer Wright reported how he stained and studied bone marrow, describing what are now known as megakaryocytes and platelets.

Early Attempt at Open Heart Surgery | June 28, 1923

From this classic description of the physical findings of mitral stenosis, the authors go on to describe an early attempt at surgical correction of the patient’s severe valvular disease. We now have mitral valve replacement; in 1923, however, this young girl underwent a knife to her stenotic valve in an attempt to relieve her worsening heart failure.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore the timeline yet, visit the 200th anniversary website now.

One Response to “Explore the History of Medical Discoveries”

  1. open heart says:

    Exploring the history of the medical interventions we are enjoying now is truly fantastic. It doesn’t only give us ideas on how things were done before but it helps us appreciate what we have now. This is great!

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