Wednesday, April 16, 2014

England's First Human Blood Transfusion (1667)

Human Health

Blood Transfusion: An Account of the Experiment of Transfusion, Practised upon a Man in London; 1667; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, London. 
Source: PubDom
An article in the Public Domain Review looks at the first blood transfusion performed on a human n November 23, 1667; the transfusion was performed by Dr. Edmund King and Richard Lower, the person receiving the transfusion was Arthur Coga, a divinity student.

The article notes the following details:

An account by Dr Edmund King given to The Royal Society of the first ever blood transfusion involving a human in England. Six months after he successfully completed a blood transfusion between two dogs, the experimental physician Richard Lower, with the help of Dr King, administered 9oz of sheep’s blood into the body of Arthur Coga, a Divinity Student from Cambridge who subjected himself to the experiment in return for a Guinea. Lower describes Coga as “the subject of a harmless form of insanity”, the perfect candidate for the experiment as it was just such a tempestuous nature which Lower and his colleagues hoped to calm by the introduction of the blood of a gentle lamb–in addition to the fact that he was well educated and so able to talk about his experiences (indeed, Coga, produced, in Latin, an account of his own experiences of the trial). When Coga himself was asked why blood from a sheep was used he replied, in Latin, “Sanguis ovis symbolicam quandam facultatem habet cum sanguine Christi, quia Christus est agnus Dei” (Sheep’s blood has some symbolic power, like the blood of Christ, for Christ is the Lamb of God.) Despite a second transfusion and many attempts to show Coga had changed in character, it appeared that the experiment was a failure in this respect.
If the idea was that blood held the key to disposition, then the experiment was a failure; it would take much longer for medical science to realize the value of human-to-human transfusions. It would take almost 200 years before British obstetrician Dr. James Blundell would perform the first successful human transfusion in the early part of the 19th century; between  1825 and 1830, Wikipedia says, "Blundell performed 10 transfusions, five of which were beneficial, and published his results." Now, these are routinely performed.

A transcript of the Lower-King effort can be found at Wikisource; you can also see the original handwritten manuscript of the account here at Wellcome Images.) You can read more at [PubDom]

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