The First Cut – Pt 2

The New Age of Medicine (continued from part 1)

ConstantinopleWhen Constantinople (Istanbul) fell to the invading Ottoman army in 1453 many scholars and physicians fled to Europe, carrying with them scientific medical knowledge that had been “lost.” This led to a European resurgence in medical developments.

The 18th and 19th centuries showed steady progress in medical knowledge leading to the establishment in England of the Royal College of Surgeons. With the development Gluckof various forms of anesthesia, such as ether (1842 Crawford Williamson Long), nitrous oxide (1844 Horace Wells) and chloroform (1848 James Young Simpson), it became possible to perform major surgeries such as knee and hip replacements pioneered by German surgeon, Themistocles Glück in 1890.

xrayhandIn 1895 the discovery of X-Rays by Wilhelm Roentgen made diagnostic location much more accurate and allowed for the injuries to be assessed before surgical procedures were carried out. In the same year Norwegian surgeon Axel Cappelen carried out the first successful cardiac surgery.

Twentieth Century

The twentieth century brought about significant rapid developments, including the identification of blood types by Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner (1901) and the electrocardiograph by Dutch physician Willem Einthoven (1905).

In 1914 the first blood transfusion was carried out and in 1917 Harold Gillies pioneered plastic surgery for wounded soldiers. cardiac-pacemakerThe first sex re-assignment surgery took place as early as 1930. First kidney transplant (1954), first cardiac pacemaker (1954), first heart transplant (1967), and first coronary bypass (1968). And in 1972 the CT scan was invented, giving surgeons unprecedented insight into the internals of their patients.

Since the 1980s we’ve seen the development of robot-assisted surgery (shades of Logan’s Run),, first heart and lung transplant, invention of PET scans, and the first stem cell therapies. More recently there’s been the development of self-contained artificial hearts, remote surgery using robotic surgical systems, full face transplants, hand, arm, and leg transplants and more.


With advances in stem cell therapy and cloning, we are literally on the edge of a vast new age of medical interventions and therapies that can tackle diseases and wounds in ways that could never be thought of before, but it doesn’t end there.

The Future

In 2007 a number of groups developed the basis for what may be the ultimate in surgery. Known as CRISPR-Cas. This biological system uses re-engineered bacterial genetic proteins to enact manipulation of gene sequences in living tissues. The relative affordability and ease of access to this technique brings with it the prospect of being able to surgically eliminate genetic disorders in living animals.  This could lead to a world where conditions such as MS, HIV, diabetes, and cancer are a thing of the past.crispr

In my upcoming novel, Mathematics of Eternity, I imagine a future where such interventions and technologies are commonplace and part of the general fabric of society. This leads to some interesting possibilities and several of the characters have various forms of genetic engineering, some significant, some less so. I’m sure we’re not too far from seeing these occur in the real world.

One Response

  1. Definitively the future. Likely sooner than later. Looking fwd to reading Mathematics of Eternity. As an example, at this time, enhancements to human memory could be easily achieved by manipulation of a single gene!

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