Medical breakthroughs

Medical researchers continually work to prevent and conquer diseases. The twentieth century saw major discoveries and advances. The work of researchers like Jonas Salk and Paul Ehrlich to develop new drugs including the polio vaccine, penicillin, and insulin revolutionized medicine. Surgical techniques improved with the use of lasers and x-rays. Biomedical engineers created artificial replacements for damaged body parts.

More about 19th century medicine

Picturing medical progress from Pasteur to polio : a history of mass media images and popular attitudes in America
Bert Hansen.
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2009.
In the 1950s, news of a polio vaccine mesmerized the public. Hansen (American history and the history of medicine, Baruch College) surveys how doctors, diseases, and medical advances were portrayed in popular media images in the late 19th and 20th centuries. A special focus is on Life magazine's role in the popularization of science. The book features images in the popular media (including comic books), and a listing of radio dramas of the 1940s and 1950s about historical medical heroes. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Technological medicine : the changing world of doctors and patients
Stanley Joel Reiser.
New York : Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Advances in medicine have brought us the stethoscope, artificial kidneys, and computerized health records. They have also changed the doctor-patient relationship. This book explores how the technologies of medicine are created and how we respond to the problems and successes of their use. Stanley Joel Reiser, MD, walks us through the ways medical innovations exert their influence by discussing a number of selected technologies, including the X-ray, ultrasound, and respirator. Reiser creates a new understanding of thinking about how health care is practiced in the United States and thereby suggests new methods to effectively meet the challenges of living with technological medicine. As healthcare reform continues to be an intensely debated topic in America, Technological Medicine shows us the pros and cons of applying technological solutions health and illness.
Scientists greater than Einstein : the biggest lifesavers of the twentieth century
by Billy Woodward.
Fresno, Calif. : Quill Driver Books, c2009.
For general readers, Woodward, a businessperson and writer interested in science, describes the work of 10 scientists from around the world who have saved the most lives in the twentieth century, some of whom are still living: ophthalmologist Al Sommer, who discovered the importance of Vitamin A supplements; Akira Endo, who discovered statin drugs to lower cholesterol; Bill Foege, who helped eradicate smallpox; David Nalin, who developed oral rehydration therapy; Norman Borlaug, who developed new strains of wheat; and John Enders, Paul Muller, Howard Florey, Frederick Banting, and Karl Landsteiner, who discovered the polio and measles vaccines, DDT, penicillin, insulin, and blood groups, respectively. Some have never been written about in popular literature. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Experimental man : what one man's body reveals about his future, your health, and our toxic world
David Ewing Duncan.
Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley, c2009.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 327-349) and index.
The edge of medicine : the technology that will change our lives
William Hanson.
New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
At a time when we are all gravely concerned about the cost of health care, medical technology, paradoxically, is expanding and evolving as never before. Experts agree that we are entering a Golden Age when many clinical treatments that today seem like science fiction will one day become part of a routine trip to the doctor. University of Pennsylvania Medical School Professor William Hanson offers intimate true-life stories that revise our understanding of mortality. From brainwave-operated wheelchairs, to electronic noses that diagnose disease, to surgery by remote-controlled robots and nanoscale machines that will identify and kill individual malignant cells, this is a startling and exciting account of innovations that will directly affect our health.
A life worth living : a doctor's reflections on illness in a high-tech era
Robert Martensen.
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Martensen, a physician, historian, and ethicist, draws on decades of experience with patients and friends to explore the life cycle of serious illness, from diagnosis to end of life.

Today's research into new drugs, devices, and treatments bring promises of exciting breakthroughs that rival those from the last century.

Alternatives to surgery:

  • Drugs are being tested that will encourage blood vessel growth and provide an alternative to bypass surgery
  • Ultrasound techniques reduce the need for some surgical breast biopsies, while increasing the accuracy of diagnoses.

New ways to take medicines:

  • Medications applied on the skin, rather than by mouth or injection, are available as part of treatment plans for those with Parkinson's disease, depression, attention-deficit disorders, and post-shingles pain. For many the ease of using the patch to take medicines lessens the possibility of forgetting to take medicines.
  • Strides in infusion therapy, the administration of medications directly into the body, are helping people suffering bone loss. The annual infusion is both convenient and eliminates digestive problems found with many oral medicines.

Innovative devices:

  • A new digital insulin pen with a memory that keeps track of time and dosage data helps to simplify management of diabetes.

    On the horizon

    Vaccine for MS
    Drug to block Alzheimer's
    Cancer self-destructing compounds

  • Robotic instruments to replace heart valves
  • Artificial disk implant to bring back neck movement
  • Cooling blankets to minimize brain damage after a heart attack

What's next? No one knows for sure.  But one thing is for sure. Medical advances will continue to transform the world.

Dr. Mary's monkey : how the unsolved murder of a doctor, a secret laboratory in New Orleans and cancer-causing monkey viruses are linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination and emerging global epidemics
Edward T. Haslam ; foreword by Jim Marrs.
Walterville, Oregon : TrineDay, c2007.
The 1964 murder of a nationally known cancer researcher sets the stage for this gripping expose of medical professionals enmeshed in covert government operations over the course of three decades. Following a trail of police records, FBI files, cancer statistics, and medical journals, this revealing book presents evidence of a web of medical secret-keeping that began with the handling of evidence in the JFK assassination and continued apace, sweeping doctors into coverups of cancer outbreaks, contaminated polio vaccine, the arrival of the AIDS virus, and biological weapon research using infected monkeys.
The Cutter incident : how America's first polio vaccine led to the growing vaccine crisis
Paul A. Offit.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2005.
Offit, the chief of the division of infectious diseases and professor of immunologic and infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of pediatrics at the U. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, brings his expertise to this fascinating and deeply troubling account, which describes the 1955 tragedy when Cutter Laboratories produced a tainted polio vaccine containing the live virus that was subsequently used for innoculations, with lethal results. Offit then relates the court case against Cutter, the precedent the verdict set in the pharmaceutical industry, and the impact it has had on vaccine production in the U.S. since. The account is based on primary documents and interviews with scientists, public officials, victims, and others. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Splendid solution : Jonas Salk and the conquest of polio
by Jeffrey Kluger.
Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2005.
  1. Large print ed.
  2. "Unabridged"--T.p. Verso.
  3. Originally published: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2004.
Splendid solution : Jonas Salk and the conquest of polio
Jeffrey Kluger.
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2004.
Kluger reveals the thrilling story of Jonas Salk's quest to conquer polio in this medical adventure full of rivalries and last minute reversals that culminated in one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century.
The virus and the vaccine : the true story of a cancer-causing monkey virus, contaminated polio vaccine, and the millions of Americans exposed
Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher.
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Jonas Salk's Polio Vaccine is regarded as a veritable medical miracle, for it largely eradicated one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century. But the story of the vaccine has a dark side, one that has never been fully told before. Between 1954 and 1963, 98 million Americans received polio vaccinations contaminated with a carcinogenic monkey virus, now known as SV40. The government downplayed the incident, and it was generally accepted that although oncogenic to lab animals, SV40 was harmless to humans. But SV40 is showing up in human cancers today, and prominent researchers are demanding a serious public health response to this forgotten polio vaccine contaminant. In a page-turner in the tradition of The Hot Zone, this meticulously researched and powerfully written book takes readers on a side-by-side journey with some of today's most prominent cancer researchers and raises major questions about vaccine policy. Book jacket.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff