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Health Tech World Awards preview: Top 5 modern health innovations



In April, Health Tech World will recognise the incredible individuals, companies and products helping to transform health outcomes around the world.

Among the categories is the Innovation of the Year Award, sponsored by Becky Warnes Consultancy.

This promises to be a hotly contested category – and an exciting one.

Ahead of the awards, we round up the top 5 health innovations of the modern era.

1796: Vaccination

English doctor Edward Jenner administered the world’s first vaccination as a preventative for smallpox.

Jenner had noticed that milkmaids who contracted cowpox did not catch smallpox – a much more serious condition.

On May 14, 1796, Jenner scratched the fluid from a cowpox blister into the skin of an eight-year-old boy.

The boy developed a single small blister but soon recovered.

On July 1, Jenner followed the process again, this time with smallpox matter. No disease developed and the vaccine was a success.

1816: Stethoscope

Now an indispensable tool in the doctor’s toolkit, the stethoscope has a humble history.

Frenchman René Laennec invented the device as a way to listen to a female patient’s heart without having to place his head on her chest.

Laennec noticed that the rolled-up piece of paper could amplify heart sounds, working much like an ear trumpet.

George Philip Cammann would go on to perfect the design in 1852.

1861: Germ theory

Jenner’s work was hugely influential, and by the 19th century smallpox vaccination was commonplace throughout Europe.

However, doctors still didn’t yet understand how inoculation worked or how the principle could be applied elsewhere.

That is until French chemist Louis Pasteur proved that food spoiled due to bacterial contamination and that these bacteria caused disease.

Before now, scientists believed that disease was caused by non-living organisms like dirt.

1895: X-ray

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen accidentally discovered X-ray while working in his lab in Wurzburg, Germany.

Röntgen was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass.

The physicist noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically-coated screen.

Through experimentation, Röntgen saw that the light would pass through most objects but leave shadows of solid objects.

He would soon discover that the unknown or ‘X’ ray would pass through human tissue, too.

1928: Penicillin

The discovery of penicillin is surely one of history’s happiest accidents.

When Dr Alexander Fleming returned from holiday, he noticed something curious happening in a petri dish of Staphylococcus bacteria.

Mould had formed and appeared to be preventing the bacteria around it from growing.

Fleming realised that the mould produced a chemical that could kill bacteria. He named the substance penicillin.

There’s still time to get your nominations in for the Health Tech World Awards.

Be sure to have your say by January 30.

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