A selection of famous doctors from Hippocrates to the first female doctors and pioneers in the use of new treatments.
Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC) –- Hippocrates was a great doctor of ancient Greece. Through his careful examination of patients, treatments and success rates, he was able to vastly improve his medical treatment. Hippocrates built up one of the great libraries of medical science in Kos. He is also credited with the Hippocratic oath which is still sworn today by medical practitioners.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) Swiss-German physician and leading health reformer. Paracelsus founded the discipline of toxicology and pioneered the use of chemicals in treating patients. He rebelled against the medical orthodoxy of the day, emphasising practical experience rather than ancient scriptures. He was also one of the first doctors to note illnesses can be psychological in nature.
Richard Lower (1631 – 1691) English physician who pioneered work on blood transfusions. He observed the circulation of blood and how it interacted with air.
William Harvey (1578 – 1657) English physician. He was the first known doctor to describe in detail the circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the brain and body by the heart.
Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813) American physician, social reformer and ‘American Founding Father’. Rush was a professor of medical theory, and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered improved hygiene standards in hospitals and was the principal founder of American psychiatry. He also served as Surgeon General in the Continental army.
Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of a smallpox vaccine. Jenner’s breakthrough vaccine also enabled many other vaccines to be developed.
René Laennec (1781 – 1826) French physician. Laennec invented the stethoscope – which helped improve treatment of many chest infections. He also developed an understanding of peritonitis and cirrhosis.
Elizabeth Blackwell ( 1821 – 1910) Born in Britain, Blackwell was the first women to receive a medical degree in America and the first women to be on the UK medical register. Blackwell helped to break down social barriers, enabling women to be accepted as doctors.
Theodor Billroth (1829 – 1894) Prussian physician who pioneered abdominal surgery. He carried out the first successful gastrectomy for gastric cancer. Billroth was also an amateur musician.
Joseph Lister (1827 – 1912) English surgeon. Lister pioneered the use of antiseptic (Carbolic acid) and antiseptic surgery which dramatically improved survival rates from major surgery.
Henry Gray (1827 – 1861) an English anatomist and surgeon most notable for publishing the book Gray’s Anatomy, which offered a comprehensive identification of parts of the human body.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836 – 1917) First female registered doctor in Britain. Also, helped found first teaching college for female doctors.
Upendranath Brahmachari (1873 – 1946) Indian scientist and a leading medical practitioner of his time. In an era before antibiotics, he pioneered the synthesis and use of Urea Stibamine, which was effective in treating (Visceral leishmaniasis an often devastating disease in rural India.
Roger Bannister (1929 – ) British athlete and doctor. Roger Bannister achieved sporting fame by becoming the first athlete to run a sub-four minute mile in Oxford, 1954 – whilst working as a doctor. Bannister said he achievements as a doctor (neurologist) were greater than his sporting records.
Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) Swiss physician, psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Although a practising doctor, his famous works were in fields of dreams, psychology and philosophy.
Sigmund Freud (1885 – 1939) Austrian /Czech physician, leading figure in the new science of psychoanalysis. Freud made an extensive study of dreams and the sub-conscious to try and understand better human emotions.
Frederick Banting (1891 – 1941) Canadian physician and medical scientist, he was the co-inventor of insulin and pioneered its use in people with diabetes. Awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine 1923
Howard Florey (1898 – 1968) Australian doctor who played a major role in turning penicillin into a practical drug. Florey pioneered the first clinical trials at the Radcliffe Hospital Oxford. Florey’s experience led to millions of lives being saved within a short time of his clinical trials.
Benjamin Spock (1903 – 1998) American paediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care (1946) – revolutionised attitudes to bringing up children. Spock encouraged mothers to use natural instinct and less formal disciplinarian approaches.
Charles Drew (1904 – 1950) African-American physician and surgeon who helped improve techniques for the storage and transfusion of blood. He protested against the racial profiling of blood donations as he felt it had no medical basis.
Virginia Apgar (7 June 1909–7 August 1974) American obstetrical anesthesiologist. She was a leader in the fields of anesthesiology and teratology. She pioneered the Apgar test for the health of newborn babies.
Christiaan Barnard (1922 – 2001) South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant.
Ian Frazer (1953 – ) Scottish-born Australian scientist who pioneered the first cancer-preventing vaccine. – The HPV vaccine against cervical cancer.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Doctors” Oxford, UK – www.biographyonline.net. Published 2 April 2015. Last updated 22 April 2020.
Doctors – The Biography of Medicine at Amazon
Famous scientists – Famous scientists from Aristotle and Archimedes to Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.
People of the Enlightenment (1650s to 1780s) The Enlightenment is a period which saw the growth in intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures.
Ideas that changed the world – Scientific, political, religious and technological ideas that transformed the world. Including democracy, feminism, human rights and relativity.
Inventions that changed the world – Famous inventions that made a great difference to the progress of the world, including aluminium, the telephone and the printing press.
Famous nurses – Famous nurses, such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Lillian Wald and Margaret Sanger.
People who made a difference in health care – the doctors, nurses, research scientists, nutritionists. and those who brought in new medicine and techniques which helped save millions of lives.
How to become a doctor and how to study in little age to become a doctor
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