5 of the greatest technological discoveries in the medical field

Every technological discovery aims to improve our health, safety, and quality of life.

Every day, we marvel over exciting new developments that emerge from each corner of the globe.

A few weeks ago, we looked at seven of the most significant pharmacological discoveries, and this week, we want to expand our exploration into great technology that help diagnose or treat disease and improve health.

As we find ourselves increasingly immersed in advanced digital technology, we’re introduced to new discoveries that sound almost as if they came straight out of a science fiction film. The impact of some of the below have been carried through the digital age, where continuous improvement and advancement is achieved.

Hearing aid

Year discovered: 1898

Five per cent of the world’s population (or 360 million people) have disabling hearing loss, while more than a billion have some other degree (including mild or moderate) of hearing loss.

Since its creation in the 19th century, the hearing aid has impressively evolved to become a sophisticated digital tool that helps patients regain the sense of hearing.

Hearing aids first came in the form of funnel-shaped “trumpets”, where a wide end picked up sound and a narrow end transported that sound to the ear. These trumpets looked and behaved similarly to a phonograph; they were based on a similar principle of recreating and enhancing sound.

The creation of the telephone in 1870s and 1880s pioneered the development of the electric hearing aid. Akouphone, the first electric hearing aid in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchinson made it portable using a carbon transmitter.

As technology has improved, so too as the capabilities of the hearing aid:

  • Digital hearing aids were first developed in 1995
  • The first “invisible” hearing aid was invented in 2008
  • Future predictions include visually guided hearing aids and implanted aids that use the human body to recharge

Metered-dose inhaler (MDI)

Year discovered: invented in 1788; linked to asthma in 1955

English doctor John Mudge invented the inhaler in 1788 as a way for patients to inhale opium vapour to treat coughs.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that metered-dose inhalers were developed. These types of inhalers became linked to and primarily associated with the management of asthma (and other respiratory diseases).

Around 250,000 people die from asthma every year, most of which, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), are avoidable.

300 million people are estimated to have asthma worldwide.


Year discovered: First used for clinical purposes in 1956

Known as a non-invasive monitoring device used to capture images, the ultrasound is synonymous with obstetrics and gynaecology.

Sonography or ultrasound scanning uses a transducer that collects sound and transmits the information through an image made especially in viewing the development of foetus inside the womb.

The father of obstetric ultrasound, Professor Ian Donald used the equipment in detecting ovarian cyst and twin pregnancy in 1950s.

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine a woman going through pregnancy without having an ultrasound. It is used to:

  • Confirm a pregnancy
  • Determine the sex of a baby
  • Identify any abnormalities or foetal defects

In addition to during pregnancy, ultrasounds are also used to examine organs, muscles, and tendons.

Cardiac pacemaker

Year discovered: As early as 1926

A pacemaker is a small device fitted on a patient to help regulate abnormal heart rhythms.

A pacemaker monitors:

  • Heartbeat
  • Blood temperature
  • Breathing

It can then stabilise an irregular heartbeat.

Australian anaesthesiologist Dr Mark C Lidwell is credited as one of the first to use an artificial pacemaker on a newborn baby in Sydney in 1926.

New York cardiologist Albert Hyman popularised the term “cardiac pacemaker” – a term that is still used today – in 1932.


Year discovered: 1941

X-rays are considered an essential discovery used in medical exams and surgical procedures.

Images are derived from a plate containing film and a beam of rays. An x-ray is a non-invasive and painless process that is commonly used to inspect fractured bones, teeth, certain types of cancer, and even to diagnose pneumonia.

German professor Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen first observed a cathode-ray tube that led to the discovery of a new type of ray from a green fluorescent light in 1895. This accidental discovery was one of the first steps towards a complete revolution in medical imaging.

The effects of this industry revolution were seen almost instantly: within a year of its discovery, the first x-rays (of a kidney stone and a coin in a child’s throat) were created.


Optalert offering its patented technology to the pharmaceutical industry

These major breakthroughs are only a handful of the world’s greatest discoveries in the field of medical history. Over time, we have clearly seen how the influence and impact of new technology and the digitisation of existing technology enhances medical diagnosis, testing, treatment, and care.

Optalert’s technology is proud to be a part of this movement towards creating a healthier and safer population. We are thrilled to offer our patented drowsiness detection technology to the pharmaceutical industry to enhance drug testing by providing more accurate data on wakefulness and drowsiness than ever before during clinical trials.

If you would like any more information on Optalert’s technology for use during clinical and drug trials, please contact our sales team today.