It was in 1628 that the leading physician of his day, William Harvey, first demonstrated that blood circulates round the body. Using equipment developed by Harvey, Sir Christopher Wren, better known as an architect, was the first man to inject fluids into the blood of animals 29 years later.
By 1666, while London burned, Richard Lower carried out the first successful blood transfusion between two animals. But taboos and lack of knowledge meant that it was another 150 years before blood transfusion between humans began. A Dr James Blundell used transfusions when mothers haemorrhaged after childbirth.
Even then, all these early experiments and uses of blood transfusion were met with disastrous results and no one could figure out why. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20the century that Dr Karl Landsteiner discovered that not all blood was the same, identifying four main groups; A, B, AB and O. This break through was made just in time for the Great War when blood was used to save the lives of soldiers. It was also discovered that the blood would last longer if put in a fridge.
The first record of blood donation was by the British Red Cross who volunteered in 1921 and in effect created the first voluntary blood service. It wasn’t long before blood donation became a well-known process and by 1937 both America and Britain had set up their first blood bank. The timing was fortunate, for another world war was just around the corner.
During the war, blood donation played a major role in saving the lives of soldiers and civilians. Blood centres were set up across Britain and people were encouraged to do their bit for their country and give blood.
The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary played a major role in the development of blood transfusion and donation in the run up to and during the Second World War. The first Blood Transfusion Service was established there in 1930, followed by a blood bank in 1938 and the first plasma processing centre in 1943, all based in the Edinburgh hospital.
The first nationally organised transfusion service in Scotland can be traced to the first meeting of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association (SNTA) in 1941. The SNBTA was responsible for the management of SNBTS until the NHS reorganisation of 1974.
SNBTS continues to this day to represent the interests of blood donors in Scotland and works within NHS Scotland to provide the best care for patients and donors in Scotland.
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Call 0845 90 90 999 to find the location of your nearest donation session
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