The History of Vaccines

Typically, historical novels are set before the 19th century and into the early 20th century. Historical medical questions can be some of the more difficult ones to answer because it’s challenging to find source material from the time.

However, when it comes to medicine, historical might be considered a time frame of more than ten to twenty years ago because of the rapidly evolving nature of the practice of medicine. One example of this would be CPR guidelines. Did you know CPR guidelines generally change every five years? To put it simply, the way we are doing CPR now is not the way it looked even ten years ago. Often times, what a writer might consider a contemporary medical question is truly a historical one.

I came across this resource called The History of Vaccines  which reviews what vaccines were available when.

For instance, diptheria vaccines began in 1926, tetanus in 1938, pertussis in the 1940’s, and polio vaccine was widely available around 1955. 

If you’re curious whether or not a character could have had the potential to be vaccinated against a certain disease, this source would be great to check out.

History of Blood Transfusion

For historical authors, it’s important to know when a medical advancement takes place for novels that include these medical details. While researching a medical question for an author regarding blood transfusion I came across a very good timeline concerning this medical advancement. You can find that article here.  Additional resource found here.

1628: Dr. William Harvey discovers blood circulation.

1655: Dr. Richard Lower performs successful animal to animal blood transfusion using dogs.

1818: Dr. James Blundell performs first person to person blood transfusion. Blundell is a gynecologist and uses blood transfusions to treat postpartum hemorrhage.

1840: Successful blood transfusion of patient with hemophilia.

1901-1902: Karl Landsteiner discovers blood types. This is an important advancement because giving the patient the wrong blood type can well . . . kill them.

1914-1918: Dr. O.H. Robinson finds effective anticoagulant that aids in long-term blood storage. Adolf Hustin is also credited with discovering an anticoagulant as well.

1920’s: Percy Oliver develops donor system for British Red Cross.

1932: Leningrad Hospital houses first blood bank.

1939-1940: Rh Blood group is discovered which is determined to be the cause of most blood transfusion reactions.

1941: Red Cross U.S.A. is started.

1950: Use of plastic bags makes collecting and storing blood easier. Before this they used glass bottles. This I cannot imagine.

1972: Apheresis is discovered which can remove one component of blood and return the rest to the donor.

1983: Stanford Blood Center begins screening donated blood for AIDS.

1985: HIV screening licensed and implemented.

1990: Hepatitis C Screening initiated.

It’s amazing to look back on just how much was accomplished in blood transfusion, blood banking, and ensuring a safe blood supply in the 20th century.