Medical Innovations That Changed The World

Medical Innovations That Changed The World

Hard-working healthcare professionals have the ability to access a number of amazing health innovations that have developed over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years.  From the first physician’s bag with basic medical supplies, to the more sophisticated supplies found in hospitals and offices, the world of a doctor is constantly being improved, due to the innovations of these brilliant men and women in the medical field. Here are our top 10 healthcare advances that helped to change the world (and save lives)!


While the history of the thermometer is unclear on whom the original inventor of the device was, the legacy of this invention has lasted hundreds of years.  Many trace early versions of the modern thermometer to the thermoscope that was invented by Galileo in the 1500s.  The first mercury thermometer was invented in 1714 by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, which is still in use today.  However, the emergence of the modern digital thermometer is phasing out the use of the mercury thermometer among medical professionals.

Hypodermic Needles

In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans used thin, hollow tools made out of wood to inject fluids into the body, a technique that they developed from observations of snakebites and poisoned weapons. In the late 1600s, Christopher Wren developed this idea, and used a goose quill as a crude, hypodermic needle to administer drugs intravenously to dogs.  The hypodermic needle as it is known now was invented in the 1800s, by Charles Pravaz and Alexander Wood. This innovation has allowed doctors to inject or extract fluids like medication and blood from patients, with minimal pain and contamination.


Before the x-ray, doctors could only rely on visible damage to the body to determine the extent or presence of damage or injury.  The initial work surrounding the discovery of x-rays was done by Roentgen in the 1800s. Surprisingly, the invention was not initially met with positive reception, and was thought of as an invasion of privacy rather than a medical tool. Today, the x-ray allows us to look inside the body and determine the exact cause, extent, and presence of injury and disease, and can be used in radiotherapy as treatment against certain types of cancer.

Hearing Aids

Many elderly people struggle with hearing, and often need tools to amplify sound.  This is why an innovation like the modern hearing aid has made the quality of life for those that have hearing difficulties so much better.  The precursor to today’s small and portable hearing aid was called the Akouphone. It was so large that it had to be placed on a table to be used! This makes the development of hearing aids today, which are wearable, concealable, and can reduce background noise, such an important advancement.

Prosthetic Limbs and Implants

The invention of prosthetics has opened up a world of mobility to those who would have otherwise been confined to a world of crutches and wheelchairs.  In addition, hip and knee replacements have allowed those with degenerative and arthritic joints to regain mobility. Innovations in the types of materials used for prosthetic limbs have also allowed for increased abilities of these limbs, and allowed those that depend on them to even run marathons.


One of the biggest killers in human history has been communicable disease, and fortunately, the development of vaccines has prevented these diseases from having the same widespread affects that they have had in the past.  Dr. Edward Jenner was the first to introduce vaccines into mainstream medical treatment when he prevented a child from getting smallpox.  Louis Pasteur, the discoverer of penicillin, was another innovator, and helped the development of vaccines that helped inoculate soldiers from diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, and typhus.

Organ Transplants

Probably one of the most complex health innovations, organ transplants have saved thousands of lives. A complicated and ethically significant surgery, organ transplants can be done by taking organs from living or deceased donors and implanting them into the bodies of those lacking the functioning organs.  The first liver transplant was done in 1967, with the first heart transplant happening in the year following.  Transplants are very technical and complicated surgeries, and there are very stringent measures that the donor organs must comply with to allow for a successful surgery. As a result, there are currently over 90,000 people on a waiting list for a transplant in the United States alone.


A small, implantable device that allows us to regulate human hearts sounds like science fiction, but it has allowed doctors to save the lives of millions since its invention.  Originally designed by two Australian doctors as a portable device that was made of two poles, the modern pacemaker has come a long way.  Today, a pacemaker’s batteries allow it to run for 20 years, and can be recharged without surgery. Recharging is now done through the skin.


Before the invention of synthetic insulin, those that had diabetes or a malfunctioning pancreas had nothing to control their blood sugar. The discovery of insulin and how to create it synthetically led to the ability to control blood sugar for those with diabetes.  This innovation has saved countless lives.


While the function of this machine may sound similar to the function of an x-ray machine, the MRI (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine) uses different technology to see inside the body. Magnetism and radio waves are used, instead of x-rays that can be less harmful to the body.  It allows doctors to see inside the body without doing as much damage to your insides.

While sometimes it can be easy to take these innovations for granted, there is no denying that these innovations have saved lives.  So, next time you see a doctor on their way to perform a surgery or help a patient with a hearing aid, give thanks for the innovations that allow you and many others to be properly cared for.  Here at Provider Prepared, we want to thank all those doctors that have put their life’s work into helping keep all of us happy, healthy, and well cared for.

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  • Dr. Nate Whittaker, MD Emergency Medicine Specialist
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