More than 500 years of experimentation with transferring blood from one living creature to another began with a very important person: Pope Innocent VII’s physician recommended a transfusion in an attempt to save the dying Pope in 1492. The pontiff died anyway, and the technique did not gain much publicity or popularity until much later. In 1628, British physician William Harvey published his study of the circulation of the blood and paved the way for successful experimentation with animal to animal transfusion. However, animal to human transfusion was never successful and was finally outlawed as too dangerous to continue.
By the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, American and British physicians began to publish their attempts to transfuse blood to humans using live human donors, sometimes with positive results. The work of Dr. James Blundell, a British obstetrician, is credited with the first of several successful human transfusions as well as the development of various methods and instruments for transfusions. Contributions to the safety and efficacy of blood transfusions followed rapidly in the l800’s when Joseph Lister published his work on antiseptics in 1867, and a Dr. Samuel Lane began saving hemophiliacs with transfusions.
The next era of experimentation, beginning at the turn of the 20th century, began with the discovery of the four human blood blood groups, A, B, O, and AB. This critical innovation made transfusion much more successful as doctors were able to match donors to recipients. The next most vital developments were in the areas of anti-coagulants which when added to blood collected from donors allowed the final liquid to be stored. These additives freed doctors from setting up direct donor-to-patient transfusions where both people had to be in the same room at the same time. The first blood banks, called "blood depots," were established by the British during World War I.
The 1930's and 40's witnessed rapid grown in both experimentation and use of human blood to save lives. The term "blood bank" came into widespread use and the idea of a hospital based blood bank spread rapidly across the United States and Europe. WWII brought about even more demand for transfusions, for the use of blood components for tansfusion, and for longer-term blood storage. Concern abut transmitted diseases such as hepatitis grew, and the use of blood products for the treatment of hemophilia became commonplace. The 1950’s the plastic storage bag for blood made for easier exchange of blood between blood banks and for standardization of blood preparation.
Major developments in blood analysis and technology in the use of blood therapies allowed actual treatment of patients with coagulation disorders, in the prevention of RH disease in newborns of RH-negative mothers, the use of platelets to reduce mortality from hemorrhage in cancer patients, the room-temperature storage of platelets, and the multiple-screening tests for all donated blood all through the 1960’s through the Federal Drug Administration mandates testing technology and donated blood undergoes at least a dozen specific screening tests before being used. Though fewer blood transfusions take place because of new “bloodless” surgical techniques, donating and receiving blood has become more and more safe.