Dr. Francis Rynd Irish Inventor of the Hypodermic Needle and Syringe

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Dr. Francis Rynd 1801-1861 Irish Inventor of the Hypodermic Needle and Syringe

Dr. Francis Rynd was born in Dublin in 1801. He was a doctor at Dublin’s Meath Hospital, which catered for the poor of Dublin. In May 1844, he developed a drip needle for introducing drugs into a vein. Up to that time, it had not been considered possible to administer drugs through the skin, and for the most part, drugs could only be administered orally. In 1845, Dr. Rynd published an article in the ‘Dublin Medical Press‘ reporting how he had successfully used a hypodermic syringe to inject fluids into a patient. This was eight years before Alexander Wood, who has mistakenly been credited with inventing the first Hypodermic syringe in 1853.

Dr. Rynd‘s intention was to cure neuralgia in his patients by injecting a sedative directly into the bloodstream. Neuralgia is a disease that attacks the nerves causing excruciating pain. At that time, medical practice was simply to alleviate the symptoms, rather than attack the cause. While he may have been an innovator in his time, his methods would not have been tolerated now, much less the medicines he was injecting! Dr. Rynd writes:

‘The subcutaneous introduction of fluids, for the relief of neuralgia, was first practised in this country by me, in the Meath Hospital, in the month of May, 1844. The cases were published in the “Dublin Medical Press” of March 12, 1845. Since then, I have treated very many cases, and used many kinds of fluids and solutions, with variable success. The fluid I have found most beneficial is a solution of morphia in creosote, ten grains of the former to one drachm of the latter.’

While this kind of experimentation might not be acceptable now, without it, medicine might not have made the progress it did. The Meath Hospital was a charitable institution, where the doctors not only worked for free, they paid to work there! It’s practices are described in Henry Shaw’s 1850 “The Dublin Pictorial Guide & Directory”:

‘This Institution was founded for the relief of the poor of the country in general. There are one hundred beds for intern patients, and about forty thousand extern poor are annually supplied with advice and medicine. The attending surgeons have resigned the bounty of £100 Irish per annum to the Hospital, giving their services gratuitously. On the 1st of September, 1848, there were 80 patients in the Hospital, and one hundred were admitted during the month ; 90 were discharged, 9 died; so that on the 30th of September, 81 remained. Applications for admission to be made at the hospital, from nine to ten o’clock every week-day, at which hour the Physicians and Surgeons attend to give advice and give business cards; and order medicine for externs. Cases of accident are always admitted, and there is an apparatus for recovery of persons apparently drowned.’

The syringe has certainly come a long way since then since, according to statistics generated by Theta Reports in 1998, the worldwide market (including the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia) is estimated at 12-13 billion annually!

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