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Three Famed Irishmen Who Have Contributed to Modern Medicine

Think of this as the older, more sensible (read: medical-based) sibling of the previous article. More than yearly traditions to get our drink on or candy fixes, we have the Irish to thank for their significant contributions to the state of modern medicine. Dr Francis Rynd

For starters, the hypodermic needle was invented by Dublin-born Dr. Francis Rynd, who worked as a doctor at Dublin’s Meath Hospital (which, on an interesting note, is still running today, since its founding in 1753). During his time at the hospital, he began working on producing a drip needle specifically to enable the intravenous administrating of drugs – a feat that, up to then, had been considered impossible. In fact, back then, drugs were mostly only introduced to the body orally. Dr. Rynd’s development experienced a breakthrough in May of 1844, when he developed the first hypodermic needle.

We ought to give the poor guy the credit he duly deserves, as this was achieved some eight years before Alexander Wood’s hypodermic syringe in 1853, which is often mistakenly considered the first ever of its kind. What spurred Dr. Rynd to develop this new means of administering drugs was his intention of curing his patients of neuralgia, an excruciating disease that quickly attacks the nerves, by injecting sedatives directly into their bloodstreams. Prior to his discovery, such illnesses were often left untreated, as doctors could only aid in alleviating the pain.

John JolyAnother famed Irishman who similarly contributed to modern medicine would be John Joly, whom was both a geologist as well as a physicist. As a geologist, his work saw him devising a meldometer to determine the unique melting point of each mineral, which ultimately led him to the discovery of the sheer importance of radioactivity. This was the basis upon which he worked on developing his treatment of cancer through radiotherapy. Though just one of his many accomplishments during his lifetime, this has indelibly left a mark in the course of medical history. In 1914, Joly successfully developed a method of extracting radium, which he subsequently applied to the cancer treatment.

Joly was Governer of Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin, and, working closely with Walter Stevenson, the pair managed to devise effective radiotherapy methods. From there, they went on to establish the Royal Dublin Society of the Irish Radium Institute, where they were the pioneers of the “Dublin Method”, which comprises the use of a hollow needle for deeper radiotherapy. This technique has since gained momentum, and is currently a practice adopted throughout the world.

John JolyFinally, born in Hillsborough, County Down, Professor James Francis “Frank” Pantridge, a physician and cardiologist, was the inventor of the portable defibrillator. This very invention has almost singlehandedly transformed the face of emergency paramedic services, and has saved the lives of countless cardiac patients since its introduction. As a cardiac consultant to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Pantridge established a specialist cardiology unit, which collectively, has become a highly regarded force in the cardiac research scene.

It was in 1957 that Pantridge and his colleague Dr. John Geddes introduced the mordern system of CPR as a means of early cardiac arrest treatment. This led Pantridge to the discovery that many of such resulting deaths were caused by ventricular fibrillation, which is a disturbance to the heart’s rhythm, able to be treated with an electric shock to the chest. This required immediate treatment, before the patient was admitted to the hospital. With this, he was motivated to develop a portable defibrillator to provide such immediate services. The very first of its kind was installed in a Belfast ambulance in 1965. It weighed approximately 70 kg, and was operated by car batteries. Since then, Pantridge has been called “the Father of Emergency Medicine”. And rightfully so.

Noted for their contributions to modern medicine, it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say that if it weren’t for their work and undying dedication in their respective fields, we’d hardly have made such advancements as we currently have.

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