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Irish Medical Inventions that Saved Lives

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People everywhere celebrate and enjoy the Irish gifts to the world of literature, music, design and dance. We’re known as a culture that loves and nurtures creativity. But Irish scientists and engineers are also creative, and they have applied their creativity to develop some amazing inventions. Every day, we benefit from things invented by Irish people, but we rarely stop to celebrate Irish inventors.

Many of the pioneering inventions and developments by Irish scientists are in the field of medicine. You probably know the names Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur, do you know the Irish medical scientists whose inventions and innovations have saved countless lives? Guinness was invented in Ireland, but despite those old “Guinness is good for you” posters’ enduring popularity on glasses, T-shirts and other Irish gifts, we are not going to class a pint of the black stuff as a medical invention!

Top 7 Irish Innovations in Medical Science

Compassion has always been valued in Irish culture. St Brigid is known for her compassion for the poor as much as her strong leadership. St. Ailbhe, a follower of St. Patrick, was also known for kindness and for an incident where he protected an aged wolf from hunters. Visitors to Ireland usually leave with stories of how friendly, helpful and hospitable the Irish are. And that spirit of kindness and compassion also motivated some of our great medical scientists to develop new ways to prevent and lessen human suffering from illness. Here’s our top seven in no particular order.

  1. John Joly was born in Co. Offaly in 1857. He’s widely known for inventing color photography, but he also developed the use of radiotherapy to treat cancer.
  2. Dublin native Francis Rynd invented the hypodermic syringe while treating a patient who experienced extreme pain in her face in 1844. It’s hard to imagine a world without this device!
  3. Cardiologist Frank Pantridge lived from 1916 until 2004. Born in Co. Down, he invented the portable defibrillator.
  4. Vincent Barry from Co. Cork led the team that developed a cure for leprosy while working to cure tuberculosis. His work saved an estimated 15 million people and earned him the 1980 UNESCO Science Prize.
  5. Lucien Bull didn’t invent the electrocardiogram, but his many inventions included an improved version of the machine. Bull was born in Co. Dublin in 1876 and also pioneered innovations in photography.
  6. Arthur Leared of Co. Wexford brought medical technology forward when he developed the modern stethoscope in 1851. Previous stethoscopes had only one earpiece.
  7. Robert Collis led a life deserving of a feature film. This Dublin pediatrician invented a nasal feeding tube for premature infants to replace spoon feeding and also developed an affordable incubator. His compassion for children led him to Bergen-Belson when the concentration camp was liberated to help the surviving children and later to Nigeria to help children suffering from malnutrition.

The Irish gifts of compassion and scientific innovation don’t always get as much attention as our gifts for music and literature, but they certainly do as much to make the world a better place.

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