10 inventions that changed health and safety

Written by Royal Society of Londres

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This month we review some of the inventions that changed health and safety forever, they are probably not the most important, but it is curious to remember their history and the people who developed them.

Would you include any more?

The safety helmet

It is believed that the famous writer Franz Kafka was the first civilian to develop head protection while employed at an Insurance Institute in Bohemia about 1912.

The first manufacturer of safety helmets was the Edward Dickinson Bullard Company in the US, which supplied carbide lamps and other mining equipment.

The first construction site where the helmet was forced to be used was the construction of the Golden Gate in San Francisco in 1933

Safety helmet

The hypodermic needle:

The hypodermic needle was an invention of Alexander Wood in 1853, an Edinburgh doctor and whose wife suffered from incurable cancer, precisely to administer the doses of morphine he invented this utensil,

hypodermic needle


The first safety belt mounted in series as standard equipment in mass production vehicles was mounted on the 1959 Volvo Amazon. This vehicle was already riding a three-point belt.

First Seabelt

It was the engineer of Volvo Nils Bohlin who invented the three-point belt, which would become the virtually universal standard for street cars. Volvo released the patent, so that all other manufacturers could copy the design.

Fire extinguisher

The extinguisher was an invention of William George Manby who came up with the idea of ​​creating an instrument that put out the fire with greater effectiveness by observing the inability of an Edinburgh fire brigade to reach the upper floors of a burning building.

Fire extinguisher

The first extinguisher was an apparatus with four cylinders, three with water and another with compressed air, which served to allow the liquid to come out under pressure. It was patented in the United Kingdom in 1839. This device was modified in 1905 when water was replaced by sodium bicarbonate.


This passive safety system was patented on October 23, 1971 by Mercedes-Benz, after five years of development and testing of the new system.


The pacemaker

The first clinical implantation of an internal pacemaker in a human was done by the Åke Senning surgeon in 1958 at the Karolinska Institute in Slona, ​​Sweden, using a pacemaker designed by Rune Elmqvist. The electrodes were connected to the myocardium through a thoracotomy. The device failed three hours later. A second device was implanted and lasted two days. The first patient in the world with an internal pacemaker, Arne Larsson, received 26 different pacemakers throughout his life. He died in 2001 at the age of 86.


The radiography

On December 22, 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) performed the first known radiograph of a part of the human body. It is the x-ray of his wife’s left hand, whose maiden name was Anna Bertha Ludwig. With it, medical radiology and diagnostic imaging techniques begin, which have contributed so much to the advancement of Medicine. But, they say, that Anna’s reaction when she saw her, like that of many people of the time, was a mixture of fascination and fear, since the fact of being able to distinguish all her bones made her feel strangely close to death.


Fire escape

One of the first fire exits of any kind was invented in 18th-century England. In 1784, Daniel Maseres, from England, invented a machine called a fire escape, which, being tied to the window, would allow anyone to descend to the street without injury. In 1888, the United States had granted 1,099 patents on fire escapes and escapes of “many forms and of every possible material.” 2

Fire Escape

The antibiotics

Although the potent antibiotic compounds for the treatment of human diseases caused by bacteria, such as tuberculosis, bubonic plague or leprosy, were not isolated and identified until the 20th century, the most remote use of antibiotics took place in China over 2500 years ago. It was then known that the application of moldy soy curd on certain infections brought therapeutic benefits.

Gas mask

The use and quantity of gas masks increased considerably at the beginning of World War I because it was during this period that the most lethal chemical weapons in history were created and used experimentally. It was created in 1915 by Garrett August Morgan.

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