A History of Biomedical Engineering

Although industry professionals have only recently started to use the term of biomedical engineering to describe the unique convergence of sciences that leads to advanced medical device creation, the practice actually goes back many centuries.

The oldest known record is from a mummy that was discovered in Thebes. The preserved body had the first known instance of a prosthesis in the form of a wooden toe that was attached to the foot using string. While modern technology has found more effective ways of applying the principles of biomedical engineering, the search to improve the quality of human life has always been present. The field of biomedical engineering covers a lot of ground, from the devices and tools used by a doctor to diagnose a patient’s condition to the modern technological machines that are able to prolong life in critical situations.

In between these two poles, the discipline is also concerned with the development of new medications, establishing a better base of knowledge about how the human body works, and simply creating elegant solutions for medical problems. Many of the greatest developments in biomedical engineering happened during the nineteenth century. It is at this time that an increased amount of awareness was placed on the maladies that affected human life and how a physician could best deal with these issues.

The stethoscope is one of the most popular medical tools used today, but the truth is that it was invented nearly 200 years ago when a French doctor felt uncomfortable in leaning up to a woman’s chest to hear her heartbeat. His solution was to use a rolled up newspaper to amplify the sound of the heartbeat, thus creating the first stethoscope. Another discovery in the nineteenth century was the invention of X-rays. A physician named Wilhelm Roentgen noticed that certain rays could create an image on paper that had been coated with a specific substance.

This sparked a great deal of research into how the rays could be used, with the eventual result being the common X-ray, one of the most frequently used tools for diagnosing medical problems. The time after the World Wars was also an incredible era for medical innovation, with many universities beginning to offer specialized programs for biomedical engineering. With each year, professionals in the biomedical engineering industry are finding new and improved ways to treat conditions that limit a patient’s quality of life.

There is much speculation about where the future of biomedical engineering is headed, complete with robotic nanobots, genetic sequencing, and cellular scanning devices. With the Internet serving as the backbone of communication, experts in the discipline can share information and learn at a more rapid pace than ever. As modern technology progresses, the ability of the medical sciences to provide effective solutions for health issues will only increase.