If war does have a silver lining, it’s the medical advances which come as a result. One of these advances is the blood transfusion.
Blood transfusion was nothing new in 1914. Doctors had experimented with it since the 1600s. These early transfusions were from person to person, and sometimes didn’t work.
Doctors weren’t sure why until blood types were discovered in 1901. Six years later transfusions began being administered according to blood type. Matching blood types dramatically ensured the success of a transfusion.
World War I
In 1914, the year World War I began, a successful anticoagulant was discovered. Finally, blood could be stored.
The first successful blood transfusion of the war was performed in October 1915 by Canadian doctor Lawrence Bruce Robertson at a casualty clearing station.
Robertson published his experience in a British medical journal the following year. With the aid of fellow physicians, Robertson was able to persuade the Royal Army Medical Corps that blood transfusions needed to be given routinely.
The first blood bank was established in 1917 with blood successfully stored for 21 days.
Updated: 26 October 2020