Blood transfusion; additional historical aspects. Part 1. The birth of transfusion immunology



The decades around the turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries covered a seminal period in the history of transfusion medicine as there was an increasing appreciation of a potential role in the management of surgical and obstetric bleeding, and also in severe non-surgical anaemias. The main obstacles to transfusing human blood were first the occasional devastating adverse reactions due, we now know, to ABO blood group incompatibility; and second the awkward propensity of shed blood to clot. This article describes in more detail how the pioneers in human transfusion immunology in the late 19th century and early 20th century learnt to recognise and avoid ABO incompatibility, and includes some hitherto obscure and rarely cited material. A companion article (Boulton, 2013, Submitted for publication) describes early attempts to find suitable anticoagulants.