Human health timeline: 1940s

Penicillin and streptomycin

Florey and Chain first tested the effects of penicillin in mice in 1940. By 1941, penicillin was being used to treat dying soldiers. This research won the Nobel Prize in 1945.

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Discovery of rhesus factor

Rhesus disease - also known as haemolytic disease of the foetus and newborn - is a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells.

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Kidney dialysis

The first practical demonstration of this process, known as continuous dialysis of blood was by John Abel1 in 1914, using anaesthetised rabbits and dogs and dialysis membranes made from treated parchment.

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Whooping cough vaccine

In 1931, before vaccination, a standard textbook of bacteriology stated that whooping cough "may be looked upon as one of the major causes of death in civilised countries". At this time it was responsible for 1.3% of all deaths in England and Wales.1

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Heart-lung machine for open heart surgery

Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) is a technique that temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, maintaining the circulation of blood and the oxygen content of the body.

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