Early Development of The Hypodermic Needle And Syringe

Development of the hypodermic needle and syringe

It is very difficult to be precise about when injecting as we know it began. Thousands of years ago weapons such as blowpipes and poison-tipped arrows and darts were in use to introduce substances into the body, through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Records show that intravenous injection was being used as early as the 17th century.

Subcutaneous or 'under the skin' injecting did not begin until the middle of the nineteenth century, probably as a result of the then new practice of inoculation against disease.

The invention of the syringe
Various people have been credited with the invention of the syringe including:

  • Christopher Wren
  • Robert Boyle
  • Pascal
  • De Graaf

It's difficult, if not impossible, to pin, if you'll excuse the pun, the invention of the syringe on to any one person. It's more likely that different types of syringe, some as basic as a needle attached to a simple pump were being used and adapted by many people at around the same time.

The first recorded person to have used intravenous, or into the vein, injecting in Britain was Sir Christopher Wren. In 1656 documentation shows that he was conducting experiments on dogs, injecting them with opium and other substances. The syringe he used is known to be very crude device, consisting of a feather quill which was attached to a small animal's bladder. The device was known as a clyster. Rather than the device puncturing the skin, an incision had to be made in order to make the vein available

Records show that Wren became more ambitious in his experiments, even trying at least one intravenous injection on a human. The experiment is reported by a contemporary, the report stating the subject of the experiment was "the delinquent servant of a foreign ambassador", and also observes that the experiment was unsuccessful as:

"… the victim either really or craftily fell into a swoon and the experiment had to be
discontinued. "

It was at least a century from Wren's early experiences before a syringe with a needle attached which was intended for puncturing the skin was first produced.