The Very First Blood Transfusion

The world’s first experiments with blood transfusion occurred in the mid-1660s in England. The procedure, which was first carried out between dogs, was gruesome: the dogs were tied down, the arteries and veins in their necks opened, and blood transferred from one to another through quills (most likely made from goose feathers) inserted into the blood vessels. The experimentalist started and stopped the flow of blood by loosening and tightening threads tied with running knots around the dogs’ blood vessels. The blood of the “emittent” dog flowed from its carotid artery into a vein in the recipient’s neck while the recipient’s own blood ran out its carotid artery. According to physician Richard Lower, who described the operation in an essay published in 1666 in Philosophical Transactions, the world’s oldest scientific journal, the transfusion came to an end when the emittent dog began “to cry, and faint, and fall into Convulsions, and at last dye [sic].”

Elizabeth Yale writing in JSTOR Daily about the early history of blood transfusions.

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