Friday, December 18, 2015

1636: Boyle learn benefits of artificial breathing

Robert Boyle (1627-1691)
1637:Boyle learns benefits of artificial breathing

By his accurate anatomical descriptions, Andreas Vesaleas inspired a generation of physicians to learn about the human body.  He also did some experiments himself, one of which included his using bellows to push air into the trachea of an animal.  This experiment was later used by Robert Hooke to prove that artificial respiration could be used to keep a person alive.

In 1636 Robert Boyle (1627-1691) discovered the presence of gases in the blood, and is therefore perhaps the first to describe an element. He found that "fresh defibrinated blood gave off bubbles of gas when it was exposed to the vacuum of an air pump."

A few years later John Mayow (1640-1679) thought the gas was nirto-aerial gas, or what we now refer to as oxygen.  (7, page 517)

Boyle, on the other hand, is responsible for many discoveries, his most famous being what is now referred to as Boyle's Law. 

This states that at a constant temperature the pressure of a gas has an inverse relationship to it's volume.

This law would become very significant to many of the later researchers. It would be used to explain why we breathe, why popcorn pops, why a tea kettle whistles, and why a balloon bursts when you blow too much air into it.

The same law would later be used by physicians to explain why inventions like Robert Hooke's bellows might cause trauma to the lungs.

1590: The invention of the microscope

The name of the person who invented glass will forever be unknown to history, although what is known is that it was invented in the first century by the ancient Romans. 

After grinding various shapes and sizes of lenses, they spent quite a bit of time looking through these, and they observed the some objects appeared larger -- were magnified -- when observed through certain lenses.  In this way, the ancient Romans discovered the first simple microscopes.

This knowledge, however, was not used much until the 13th century when spectacle makers ground different sizes and shapes of lenses in order to find a way to help people see better.  

While they invented the first spectacles, they also ended up inventing the first microscopes.  These first microscopes, however, were basically nothing more than large magnifying glasses.  

In 1590, two spectacle makers by the name of Zaccharias Janssen and his father Hans, were experimenting with various lenses.  They ended up putting one lens in a tube, and then two, and then three, to see how this might improve or change the appearance of objects observed. 

What they ended up discovering was the by using two lenses they could make an object appear 3-10 times larger than normal, and even larger than they appeared in any simple magnifying glass.  It was in this way that they invented the compound microscope.  

Soon after other investigators learned of this new invention, Galileo Galillei improved upon it by performing his own experiments.  He would use it to investigate the sun and the solar system.  

Jan Swammerdam and Robert Hook would also use it to investigate the unseen elements of the human body, making discoveries that would help advance medicine.  

Anthony Leeuwenhoek would also use a microscope, although the one he invented was a simple microscope that, because he became so adept at grinding lenses and adjusting light, was able to magnify objects far greater than any compound microscope, or up to 500 times.  

In this way, the microscope would become one of the most significant tools of science and medicine.

  1. Tissier
  2. Lagerkvist, Ulf, "The Enigma of Ferment," 2005, Singapore, World Scientific Publishing
  3. Potter, Elizabeth, "Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases," 2001, Indiana University Press
  4. Newman, William R, et al, "Alchemy Tried in the Fire," 2002, University of Chicago
  5. Lehrs, Ernst, "Man or Matter," 1958, Great Britain, Whistable Litho Ltd.
  6. Jindel, S.K., "Oxygen Therapy," 2008, pages 5-8
  7. Hill, Leonard, Benjamin Moore, Arthur Phillip Beddard, John James Rickard, etc., editors, "Recent Advances in Physiology and bio-chemistry," 1908, London, Edward Arnold
  8. Hamilton, William, "A History of Medicine, Surgery and Anatomy," 1831, Vol. I, London, New Burlington
  9. Osler, William Henry, "The evolution of Modern Medicine: A series of lectures delivered at Yale University on the Sillman Foundation in April, 1913," 1921, New Haven, Yale University Press
  10. Osler, ibid, pages 170, reference referring to William Harvey: Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus, Francofurti, 1628, G. Moreton's facsimile reprint and translation, Canterbury, 1894, p. 48. 20 Ibid., p. 49.
  11. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "Introduction to the history of medicine," 1921, London, 
  12. Baker, Christopher, editor, "The Great Cultural Eras of the Western World: Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution 1600-1720: A biographical dictionary," 2002, CT, Greenwood Publishing; Herman Boerhavve published Biblia Naturae (Bible of Nature) in 1737, which was a two volume compilation of the works of Jan Swammerdam. Can you read Latin?
  13. Garrison, op cit, 266; (Samuel) Pepy's Diary, Mynors Bright's ed., London, 1900, v, 191
  14. Bradford, Thomas Lindsley, writer, Robert Ray Roth, editor, “Quiz questions on the history of medicine from the lectures of Thomas Lindley Bradford M.D.,” 1898, Philadelphia, Hohn Joseph McVey
  15. Brock, Arthur John, "Galen on the natural faculties," 1916, London, New York, William Heinemann, G.P. Putnam's Sons
  16. "History of Chemistry,",, accessed 7/6/14
  17. Affray, Charles, Denis Noble, "Origins of Systems Biology in William Harvey's masterpiece on the Movement of the Heart and the Blood in Animals," April 17, 2009, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 10(2), pages 1658-1669, found online at,, accessed 7/8/14
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