History Minute: Blood Transfusions

The Beginning of Blood Transfusions

Did you know that on September 26, 1818 (which is exactly 196 years ago today, in case you were wondering), Dr. James Blundell successfully transfused human blood for the first time in history?

Prior to this event, several attempts had been made using animal blood for humans in the 1660s by Dr. Richard Lower. The practice was highly controversial, caused allergic reactions, and was later banned by Britain and France. For the next 150 years blood transfusions became a thing of the past.

Blundell was a practicing British obstetrician who, using a syringe, obtained blood from a patient’s husband and transfused it in an attempt to treat postpartum hemorrhaging. Extracting four ounces of blood from the man’s arm, the experiment not only worked, but it also led to other transfusions performed by Blundell (some successful, others not).  Blundell invented several tools used for transfusing blood, published research, made a great deal of money, and created a legacy of practice that has saved many lives today.

blood transfusion
Other Transfusion Facts:
  • In 1901, Dr. Karl Landsteiner first identified the major human blood groups, which are: A, B, AB, and O.
  • Today someone in the world needs blood approximately every two seconds.
  • Roughly 108 million units of donated blood are collected annually around the world.
  • Nearly 50% of these blood donations are collected in high-income countries, which are actually home to less than 20% of the world’s population.
  • Regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors are supposedly the safest group of donors as the prevalence of bloodborne infections is lowest among these donors.


Click here to see if you are eligible to donate blood, and where your nearest blood drive is located.










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