19th Century to Early 20th Century


One of the first medical devices was the ophthalmoscope invented by a German scientist, Hermann von Helmholz, in 1850.
The ophthalmoscope allows the interior of the eye to be viewed.


In 1855, Manuel García invented the laryngoscope, which uses a mirror to see the inside of the throat and the larynx.

At about the same time, Willhelm Roentgen, a professor of physics in Bavaria, discovered that radiation can penetrate solid objects of low density. This led to the invention of x-ray, which allowed physicians to view the inside of the body without surgery. X-rays became popular in World War II. They were used to diagnose pneumonia, pleurisy, tuberculosis, and to help doctors before surgery. The biochemical assay was also developed during this period to be used as a diagnostic tool for diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, diphtheria, and tuberculosis.

first xray machine

one of the latest xray machines

Technology also made a great impact on medical procedures and allowed for complex surgical procedures to be developed. 1903 saw William Einthoven devise the first electrocardiograph. In 1927, the respirator was introduced. In 1939, the first heart-lung bypass machine was introduced.

The development of new knowledge and procedures were so great that by the end of World War II, an unprecedented quantity of engineers and scientist were directed to use their expertise to develop technology. During this time, extraordinary advances were made in electronics, material science and thermodynamics, which were instrumental in the development of medical technology.

The use of technology in medical applications has expanded tremendously in the last 50 years. The growth of medical technology in the past 50 years has exceeded all advances made during the previous 2000 years.

For instance, microscopic devices have evolved from an optic microscope to an electron microscope which allows three-dimensional visualization of intracellular space.

In the 1970s computer technology merged with medical technology. Medical researchers now use computers in all activities, ranging from performing complex calculations, storing medical records, to controlling instruments. Computers can now be programmed to perform robotic surgeries with great precision.

A key contribution to the growth of medical technology is the application of basic science and engineering. For instance, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an amazing engineering feat that brings physics principles into reality. MRI is now widely used for medical imaging.

Technology also makes great breakthroughs in improving quality of life of patients by providing prosthetic body parts such as artificial heart valves, blood vessels, limbs, and reconstructive skeletal joints.

an example book of the 20th century medical technology

In recent years, the intersection of technology and medical science have impacted the practice of medicine in profound ways. In a culture steeped in science, it appears that the growth and use of medical technology will continue.