This timeline offers a sample from an extensive chronology of key moments in human health history.
The earliest known surgery is performed in Egypt.
The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus shows that some organs, such as the heart, its vessels, liver, spleen, kidneys, uterus, and bladder, were recognized.
Hippocrates of Cos maintains that diseases have natural causes and establishes the Hippocratic Oath.
The Charaka Samhita (in southwest Asia) applies an objective, rational approach to the causes and cures of diseases.
Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman physician, publishes a book of Greek medical writings on anatomy and surgeries called De re medicina.
Galen, a Greek scientist, moves to Rome and becomes a physician at the imperial court after gaining valuable experience as a doctor at a gladiator school.
Zhang Zhongjing compiles Shang Han Lun, the oldest complete medical textbook in the world.
Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari dies. He wrote the first encyclopedia of medicine in Arabic
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā writes Al-Qanoon fi al-Tibb, which establishes experimental and evidence-based medicine and remains a standard textbook in the Muslim and European world until the 18th century.
The plague epidemic begins in Europe and human population starts to decline for the first and only time.
The first detailed anatomy text with illustrations is published: Isagogae breves per lucide ac uberrime in Anatomiam humani corporis by Jacopo Berengario da Carpi.
Andreas Vesalius publishes De Fabrica Corporis Humani which corrects Greek medical errors and revolutionizes European medicine.
Miguel Serveto is the first European to describe circulation of blood through the lungs (although he did it in a theological treatise).
William Harvey correctly describes the circulatory system in Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus.
Giacomo Pylarini provides the first smallpox inoculations in Europe. They were used widely in the east before then.
Claudius Aymand performs the first recorded successful appendectomy.
Hanaoka Seishu, a Japanese surgeon, performs the first reliably documented surgery on a patient under general anesthesia.
James Blundell, who wanted to prevent women from bleeding to death after childbirth, performs the first successful human blood transfusion.
In the Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, Edwin Chadwick explains the role of environmental conditions in people's health.
Ignaz Semmelweis discovers that hand washing prevents a common, but fatal, bacterial infection contracted by women during childbirth.
Louis Pasteur establishes his germ theory: infection is caused by living organisms not by "spontaneous generation."
Wilhelm Röntgen discovers medical use of X-rays.
Karl Landsteiner discovers there are different types of human blood, explaining why some transfusions did not work.
Willem Einthoven discovers that electrocardiography (ECG/EKG) can read electrical activity in the heart.
Frederick Hopkins discovers vitamins and their role in health and disease.
Hans Berger performs the first human electroencephalography (EEG), which records brain waves.
Alexander Fleming accidentally discovers penicillin while studying the bacteria staphylococcus.
Orvan Hess begins work on the first fetal heart monitor.
Willem J. Kolff builds the first artificial kidney, or dialysis machine.
Benjamin Spock publishes Baby and Child Care, sparking a revolution in raising children by suggesting that parents should be more affectionate and treat children as individuals.
Claude Beck performs the first successful defibrillation, which saves the life of a 14-year-old boy during heart surgery.
The first reports linking tobacco and cancer are published.
Jonas Salk develops the first polio vaccine.
Joseph Murray performs the first human kidney transplant.
James Hardy performs the first human lung transplant. The patient lives for 18 days.
Walter Krause and Richard Soldner develop the first commercial ultrasound machine for use in hospitals.
Christiaan Barnard performs the first human heart transplant, although his patient dies in less than a month.
Raymond Vahan Damadian performs the first MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of a whole human being.
Smallpox is the first disease eradicated from the Earth.
The US government reports that "5 young men, all active homosexuals" in Los Angeles have been diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia—the first reported cases of AIDS in the US.
Alec Jeffreys develops DNA fingerprinting, now a staple in forensic science.
Yik San Kwoh performs the first robotic surgery.
Julio Palmaz invents the first commercially useful intravascular stent and revolutionizes cardiac care.
Working independently, James Thomson and John Gearhart report success in growing human stem cells in culture.
The International Human Genome Project releases a rough draft of the complete, human genome to the public.
Jacques Marescaux leads the first telesurgery from New York on a patient in Germany.
Carlo Urbani, from Doctors without Borders, alerts the World Health Organization about the threat of the SARS virus.
French surgeon Jean-Michael Dubernard performs the first partial face transplant.
A 54-year-old Italian man is the first patient to live beyond 1000 days with an artificial heart while waiting for a donor heart.