What Were the Biggest Medical Breakthroughs

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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There have been many advancements in medical history, and some of the biggest medical breakthroughs have been the discovery of penicillin and the discovery of vaccinations for various diseases. The polio vaccination was one of the most significant. The scientific discovery of anesthesia was a monumental medical advancement. The discovery of the x-ray was also a great discovery and medical breakthrough.

One of the biggest medical breakthroughs in the 1920s occurred when British bacteriologist and future Nobel Prize winner made a major, and accidental, discovery in the late 1920s. An experiment he had conducted in his laboratory had unexpectedly gone awry when mold had developed in a petri dish. Fleming realized the mold had the ability to kill strains of bacteria that he had been cultivating in the experimental dish. His discovery of penicillin, which could be cultivated from mold, was a scientific breakthrough that led to the use of this powerful antibiotic as a means of curing bacterial infection.

The discovery of anesthesia was one of the major medical breakthroughs in the mid-1880s. This medical achievement offered the opportunity for patients to receive major surgery without experiencing physical distress. With local anesthesia, a patient was allowed to remain awake and aware of his surroundings, yet not experience the painful sensation of the surgery. The first uses of local anesthesia, in particular nitrous oxide, were by dentists in the 1840s.


Vaccinations for minimizing or eliminating the risk of serious infectious disease were one of the major medical breakthroughs of the 19th century. Microbiologist Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in the 1950s. He was born in New York City and received his education at New York University's School of Medicine.

Organ transplantation is another of the major medical breakthroughs in modern history. This involves the transplantation of a human organ, such as a kidney, liver, or heart, from a donor to a patient. Organ transplants save the lives of patients worldwide and have succeeded to do so since the 1950s.

Cardiac pacemakers have helped individuals with heart conditions that involve arrhythmias of the heart. The invention of the cardiac pacemaker is considered to be a monumental discovery and one of the most important medical breakthroughs in treating heart patients. The first electrical pacemaker designed for such treatment was invented in the 1950s.

Scientific advancements and medical breakthroughs continue to improve the quality of life for countless individuals all over the world. Medical scientists continue to strive for advancements in treating and curing disease through modern technology and dedication to saving lives. One of the most significant medical breakthroughs which scientists hope to achieve is a cure for cancers which thus far have been considered terminal.


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