History of Biomedical Engineering

  • The Biomedical Engineering has been with us for centuries, perhaps even thousands of years. In 2000, German archeologists uncovered a 3,000-year-old mummy from Thebes with a wooden prosthetic tied to its foot to serve as a big toe. Researchers said the wear on the bottom surface suggests that it could be the oldest known limb prosthesis.
  • In 1816, modesty prevented French physician Rene Laennec from placing his ear next to a young woman’s bare chest, so he rolled up a newspaper and listened through it, triggering the idea for his invention that led to today’s ubiquitous stethoscope.
  • The roots of biomedical engineering reach back to early developments in electrophysiology, which originated about 200 years ago.
  • In 1848, an early landmark occured in electrophysiology. When Hermann von Helmholtz, is credited with applying engineering principles to a problem in physiology and identifying the resistance of muscle and nervous tissues to direct current.
  • In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen accidentally discovered that a cathode-ray tube could make a sheet of paper coated with barium platinocyanide glow, even when the tube and the paper were in separate rooms. Roentgen decided the tube must be emitting some kind of penetrating rays, which he called “X” rays. This set off a flurry of research into the tissue-penetrating and tissue-destroying properties of X-rays, a line of research that ultimately produced the modern array of medical imaging technologies and virtually eliminated the need for exploratory surgery.

Origin of Biomedical Engineering

  • Biomedical Engineering originated during World war -II. Biologists were needed to do work involving advances on Radar Technology, which led them for the electronic developments in medicine. Due to this developments the next generation of biologists could not benifit this technology as they couldn’t understand it.
  • Obviously, a bridge was needed to fill the gap between technical knowledge & biology. Doctors and Biologists who ever interested in engineering and electrical engineers intersted in biology, became the first bio engineers. Those primarily concerned with medicine became the first Biomedical Engineers.
  • The unique mix of engineering, medicine and science in biomedical engineering emerged alongside biophysics and medical physics early this century.

Major Milestones in BME

Biomedical engineering achievements range from early devices, such as crutches, platform shoes, wooden teeth, and the ever-changing cache of instruments in a doctor’s black bag, to more modern marvels, including pacemakers, heart-lung machine, dialysis machines, diagnostic equipment, imaging technologies of every kind, and artificial organs, medical implants and advanced prosthetics.

  • 1895 – Conrad Roentgen (Germany) discovered the X-Ray using gas discharged tubes.
  • 1896 – Henry Becquerel (France) discovered X-rays were emitted from uranium ore.
  • 1901 – Roentgen received the Nobel Prize for discovery of X-Rays.
  • 1903 – William Eindhoven discovered the Electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • 1921 – First formal training in Biomedical Engineering was started at Oswalt Institute for Physics in Medicine, Frankfurt, Germany.
  • 1927 – Discovery of Drinker Respirator.
  • 1929 – Hans Berger discovers the Electroencephalogram (EEG).
  • 1930’s – X-rays were being used to visualize most organ systems using radio-opaque materials.
  • 1930’s – Refrigeration, Permitted Blood banks.
  • mid 1930’s – early 1940’s – Antibiotics, Sulfanilamide and Pencillin reduced cross-infection in hospitals.
  • 1940’s – Cardiac Catheterization.
  • 1943 – International Bio-Physical Society was formed.
  • 1948 – The first conference of Engineering in Medicine & Biology was held in United States.
  • 1950’s – Electron Microscope.
  • 1950’s – early 1960’s – Nuclear Medicine.
  • 1953 – Cardiopulmonary bypass (Heart-Lung Machine).
  • 1970’s – Computer Tomography(CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI).
  • 1975 – Whitaker Foundation was founded.
  • 1980’s – Gamma Camera, Positron Emission Tomography(PET) & SPECT.
  • 1997 – First Indigenous Endo vascular Coronary Stent ( Kalam-Raju Stent) was developed by Care Foundation.

No matter what the date, biomedical engineering has provided advances in medical technology to improve human health.

As per the statistics of the National Academy of Engineering, currently about 32000 bioengineers are working in various areas of Health care technology