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50 Years Ago: Kidney Transplantation

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CI, NO. 18; OCTOBER 30, 1909

OCTOBER 1959
FOUNDER OF KIDNEY TRANSPLANTS— “Identical-twin grafts have demonstrated that where an immunological barrier does not exist kidneys can be successfully transplanted to cure otherwise incurable kid­-ney and vascular disease. We transplanted a kidney from a healthy man to his criti­cally uremic brother. Though the men were probably not identical twins, we hoped that their relationship might make for some immunologic compatibility. The recipient was given a total dose of X-rays large enough to depress his reticuloendothelial tissues severely. As the patient’s reticuloendothelial system recovers from the radiation, it may be forced to become familiarized with the antigens and the transplanted kidney. It is as yet too early to evaluate the results of this transplant, but initially it appears to be successful. —John P. Merrill

OCTOBER 1909
ELECTROCULTURE— “The rapid growth of plants in the polar regions has hitherto been attributed to the continuous daylight of two or three months in summer, but this explanation must be abandoned. Prof. Lemstroem, of the University of Helsingfors, Finland, finds several reasons for believing that the cause of rapid growth in the Arctic is to be found in the electrical currents which flow between the earth and the atmosphere, and produce the phenomena of the aurora borealis. The pointed leaves of conifers and the barbs of ears of grain facilitate the transmission of these currents through those plants, and this function supplies a reason for the existence of these peculiarities.”

SUBWAY ENTERTAINMENT— “Moving pictures are produced, as is well known, by a film traveling with intermittent motion before a projector or lantern which throws successive views on the screen. The same results could be obtained if the pictures were stationary and the audience itself were in motion, so as to view the pictures successively. An ingenious inventor has hit upon this scheme to relieve the monotony of subway travel. He proposes to mount a continuous band of pictures at each side of the subway, and have these pictures successively illuminated, by means of lamps placed behind them. The accompanying illustration indicates the method of accomplishing this result.”

The “Masstransiscope,” installed in the New York City subways in September 1980, uses this zoetropic effect. Videos are available here and here.

OCTOBER 1859
FRANKLIN’S REMAINS— “The expedition fitted out two years ago, to search for Sir John Franklin in the Arctic regions, has returned with full and correct tidings of the sad fate of Franklin and his companions. Captain Robert McClintock found the record and remains of Franklin at Point Victory; and it seems that he died in June, 1847—about 11 years ago. The whole of his companions also perished in those inhospitable and desolate regions. We hope the last expedition to these dread solitudes of ice and snow has been made. A north-west passage was discovered by Captain McClure; but of what value is it? For the purposes of navigation, it is perfectly impracticable; and the conclusion is, that the life and treasure which have been expended in Arctic expeditions have been wasted.”

POWER OF THE PRESS— “From ancient history we learn that several nations—Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans—accomplished, at successive periods, great works and became great powers. They exhibited much intellectual and physical activity during their dominance, and then they became sluggish and finally degraded—by reposing on their laurels, they soon sunk into senility. We think no fears of such a result need be entertained in the present age of progress. The printing-press will prevent this; it is the mighty agent which keeps the public mind in fermentation and prevents it from stagnating.”

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