Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Pioneer of Blood Transfusions

Nate Moore April 7, 2015
Biology       Current events

OPTION B: Instead of a current event report, you may do a brief biography of an “unsung” scientist hero. An “unsung” scientist, is someone who made great contributions to the field of biology, but for various reasons is largely unknown to the public. This person may have been marginalized due to their skin color, personality, or because she was a woman.

Richard Lewisohn
Blood Transfusion Pioneer

Everyday, thousands of people require blood transfusions and this ingenious process oftens saves the persons life. However, until the early 20th century discovery by the unsung hero, Richard Lewisohn, it was impossible to store any blood for over a couple hours because the blood would begin to clot, making transfusion impossible. Blood transfusion can trace its roots back to the mid 17th century when certain scientists discovered the circulatory system. Soon after the discovery of the circulatory system, less than 30 years later, British physicians showed they could keep dogs alive through blood transfusions from other dogs. In the early 18th century, blood transfusions from lambs into humans were common. However, in light of certain medical and health risks of this inherently dangerous practice, it was soon banned. Despite the abolishment of this crude form of blood transfusion, blackmarket transfusions were common well into the 19th century. During the civil war, the bloodiest war in American history, it was becoming increasingly apparent that a better method for blood transfusions would be required. Despite funds from several governments, little progress was made outside of experiments transfusing cow and goat milk inside humans, with similar abrogating effects to the transfusion of lamb blood. In 1901, American scientists developed a method of transfusion called the “direct” method. This involved the donor being directly next to the person in need of transfusion and they would essentially be sewn together and the blood would be transferred. Despite the success of the process, it was not entirely fruitful because of certain health worries and the difficulty of getting the donor and recipient together at the same time with the proper equipment. The first major breakthrough in the world of blood transfusion came in the first decade of the 1900’s when scientists discovered the different types of blood and the reason why transfusions in the past had not been successful: the blood began to coagulate in only a matter of minutes.

Richard Lewisohn was born in Germany in 1875, where he attended the prestigious University of Freiburg, known for its medical school. Seven years after receiving his degree in medicine he traveled to New York to work at Mount Sinai hospital, specifically studying the digestive tract. It had been known for several decades that sodium citrate could prevent the coagulation of blood but the problem was that it made the blood toxic. Lewisohn's crucial discovery in the process, after a culmination of several years of research and extensive research, he discovered the perfect ratio of sodium citrate to blood in order to prevent the blood from coagulating and it still was not toxic. His original estimation was that the blood would still work after two days but after further testing it was revealed that it could last for two weeks! This was revolutionary to the scientific world at the time and even today his discoveries are still vital to science. Lewisohn's discoveries were just in time for World War I and blood was soon being transported to the front, inevitably saving tens of thousands of lives the the war alone. Thanks to his discoveries about blood transfusion, Richard Lewisohn has been credited with saving over 1 billion lives and his amazing scientific research will continue to save lives well into the future.


  1. After reading this current event it helped me learn how difficult the medical world was back then. However what really go my attention was the fact that sodium citrate was actually used to stop blood from coagulating. I also became amazed that Richard Lewisohn saved over a billion lives. Nonetheless all the work especially the not jammed packed biography of Mr. Lewisohn was well written. There aren't any corrections to be made because I think it was a solid current event. However because sodium citrate was used prevent the coagulation of blood, what I would like to know it what do we use now in our time to stop blood from coagulating?

  2. I think Nate did a really good job writing about his unsung hero. Before reading his current event I had never heard of Richard Lewisohn. Nate did a really good job of giving background on his scientist and about the history of blood transfusions. He also did a good job of writing about how much his discoveries are still affecting us today. I am impressed by how much information he found on his scientist. I learned a lot about the history of blood transfusions and medical practices hundreds of years ago. I think his current event could have been even better if he had included more information about blood transfusions today.

  3. Nate did a really good job at documenting the history of blood transfusion in an easy to understand way. I could easily follow the chronology and the progression of events due to Nate's clear narrative. I also liked that Nate clearly demonstrated such blood transfusion technology, and this made me want to read to the end of his summary. Nate's writing style made the summary very easy to read. There were almost no grammatical errors, and he is stylistically solid as a writer.

    I found it interesting that so many people died from inadequate or infected blood transfusions. it really puts a perspective on how far modern medicine has come in the recent centuries. I was also astonished that such technology was only developed roughly one hundred years ago; I thought were more advanced at that point than we actually were.

    Nate could have done a better job on the font. The white highlighting in the middle of the essay makes it hard to read. This may sound like nitpicking, but having a readable text is important.

  4. Nate did a really great job discussing the blood transfusions. Before reading this current event I was unaware of who invented blood transfusions. I learned from this article that Richard Lewisohn was the man who made this possible. I never really thought about how difficult the medical world would be without blood transfusions. Reading this article brought the necessity of blood transfusions to my attention. I really enjoyed how he discussed the process of blood transfusion and then eased into to talking about Richard Lewisohn as a person. I think Nate did a great job in summarizing the article and he really captured the idea and put it into words that were easy to understand for people who are not doctors or scientists. I think Nate could of researched the Lewisohn himself a little more instead of just talking about his discovery but overall he did a great job!