The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The men who began practicing blood transfusion

Category: Short stories

Blood transfusion means the passing of blood into the body of a person (or an animal) from an outside source, perhaps from the body of another person or an animal.

This is now done with good results every day. Blood transfusion is now part of the regular practice of doctors, and it has saved many lives. This is due to the earlier work of men who experimented with and studied the blood itself.

Blood transfusion was tried before 1700. There were many difficulties, and transfusion often caused serious ill­ness, and even death. Blood dries when exposed to the air and therefore does not flow normally. Early experiments were unsuccessful largely because doctors did not know enough about blood, human or animal. Mistakes were made (as it happens with new experiments) and as a result the patient often died. No one in those days knew about the different blood groups and they thought that the blood of all human beings was exactly the same.

Early Experiments

In the middle of the 17th century there lived in London a writer whose name was Samuel

Pepys. He kept a diary of his life in the capital and took an interest in everything that happened in the great city.

On November 14, 1667 Pepys was invited to visit a cer­tain Doctor Croon. When he returned home late in the evening he wrote in his diary, “Doctor Croon told me that at Gresham College tonight there was an interesting experi­ment. Blood from one dog was transferred into the body of another one at his side. When all the blood of the original dog had been transferred, this dog died but the other one, to whom the blood was transferred, survived.”

People began to wonder what would happen if a man’s blood was replaced by that of another man. The questions which were asked were various and sometimes very strange. Here are some of the questions taken from Pepys’ diary, “Will the blood of a good man make a bad man better? Will a man who knows nothing be made cleverer by receiv­ing blood from a clever man? Can a woman become beauti­ful? Can a sick man be made strong?”

Blood transfusion was tried on a man. Pepys wrote in his book that a poor man, Coga by name, received twenty shillings because he allowed some doctors to put the blood of a lamb into his body. The blood was allowed to run from one to the other for about a minute, and Coga did not seem to have suffered much from his experience. The transfu­sion was done by an English scientist Richard Lower on November 23, 1667. A year earlier Doctor R. Lower had made a successful blood transfusion using dogs, the expe­riment with Coga was a new step forward in his scien­tific work.

Pepys met Coga a few days later. “Coga, as Pepys wrote, finds himself much better since, and a new man.” It appears from the record that Coga was the first man who was given a blood transfusion in England.

But he was not the first man in Europe who received blood in this way. A blood transfusion had already been performed in France, earlier in 1667, by Doctor Jean Denys; this transfusion was probably one of the earliest made on man. Denys put the blood of a lamb into the body of a sick man who had lost much blood.

Experimentsin Russia

The first successful blood transfusion in Russia was made by Doctor G. S. Wolf in 1832.

A woman was dying in a St. Petersburgh hospital and Doctor Wolf saved her life by giving her blood from another person.

Russian scientists and doctors contributed greatly to the development of blood transfusion. As far back as 1847 I. M. Sokolov, prosector of Moscow University, was the first in the world to put blood serum into the body of a man who had been taken ill with cholera.

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