Ancient Ideas Remain Today
The true nature and function of blood was once shrouded in mystery. The ancients believed blood to be the most important of the four body "humors" – the seat and source of the passions.
Some of our everyday expressions are the survivors of these ancient beliefs: a person is "hot blooded" if he is easily roused to anger, or "cold blooded" if she is ruthless and calculating. "Bad blood" is used to describe resentment and desire for revenge.
Bloodletting Still Common in Late 1700's
Even as late as the time of our country's birth, bloodletting was a universal medical practice. It was generally believed that excessive amounts of blood caused all sorts of bodily ills, particularly fevers. Overly enthusiastic applications of this "cure" no doubt hastened the untimely end of many victims. Herbal remedies were widely used to "thin the blood," especially in the spring. You may even have recollections of your grandmothers' herb tea, or the detested sulfur and molasses.
France, 1667: Human Blood Transfusion Documented
Using human blood to treat disease and trauma began in France, 1667. Jean-Baptiste Denis documented a direct human blood transfusion just 40 years after William Harvey discovered the circulatory system. These early direct donor-to-patient transfusions were often disastrous because it was not possible to predict donor-recipient blood type compatibility.
Germany, 1901: Discovery of Blood Groups
German scientist Dr. Karl Landsteiner discovered that there were different blood groups. He categorized those groups as types A, B, and O. Since he found that all humans fall into one of these groups, the ABO system provided an answer to the puzzle of why some transfusions had worked and others failed.
Chicago, 1936: First U.S. Blood Bank
The first true blood bank was organized at Chicago's Cook County Hospital. Irwin Memorial Blood Bank – the first community-based blood center – was established in San Francisco in 1941. Others were founded in all parts of the country during the next decade. Blood banking began growing in earnest with the return of physicians who had seen the effectiveness of transfusion therapy on the front lines in World War II. They began to demand that blood be made available for treatment of their patients.
Dr. Charles Drew was a pioneer in blood plasma preservation. In addition, he was a major contributor to the advancement of blood banking in the United States. He helped supply thousands of units of plasma for World War II victims.
America Association of Blood Banks Founded, 1947
The American Association of Blood Banks [now AABB] was organized to support and encourage continued blood research, promote exchange of scientific information and develop standards of practice for blood banks. By 1948, the American National Red Cross began operating a full-scale blood program to collect and distribute blood to patients in need.
Plastic Blood Bag Invented, 1953
Blood banking gained a greater level of sophistication with the introduction of the plastic blood bag. Invented by the Fenwal Company, the plastic blood bag with its satellite bags made it more practical to treat specific problems by separating and using the blood's various components.
Scientific Advances Promote Blood Use, Donations
In 1915, Richard Lewishon found that sodium citrate added to freshly drawn blood prevents clotting (coagulation). This discovery allowed blood collected from a donor to be stored for later transfusion to a patient.
Progress toward a blood supply donated exclusively by volunteers, along with improvements in hepatitis testing, has significantly increased patient assurance that transfused blood and blood components are of the highest quality.
America's Blood Centers Founded
In 1962, seven community-based blood centers came together with the help of local hospitals, physicians and civic groups to establish America's Blood Centers. Medical expertise, customer service and a community-first blood banking philosophy are the founding principles of America's Blood Centers.
Learn more about the history of blood. Visit www.pbs.org/wnet/redgold
(Source: America's Blood Centers - www.americasblood.org)