By Martin Gleeson
While hundreds of thousands of Irish people wait to be injected with the Covid-19 vaccine, we know that the doses are applied by medical staff using hypodermic syringes.
The invention of the fine hollow needles of the syringes is credited to a Dublin-born physician, Francis Rynd. Today, tens of billions of syringes are used around the world to combat illness.
Francis Rynd was born in Dublin in 1801. He received his medical education in Trinity College. Friends described his student days as “wayward” and he enjoyed a busy social life in Dublin.
He practised medicine in the Meath Hospital, which in those days was a charitable institution, where the poor were treated for free. For income, he had a private practice, with most of the nobility of Ireland as his patients. He also served as Medical Superintendent at Mountjoy Prison.
Dr. Rynd married Elizabeth Alley, the daughter of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Sadly, he died in Dublin of a heart attack in 1861 at the age of 60.
Patient with Acute Neuralgia
In 1844 in the Meath Hospital, Dr. Rynd was presented with a female patient named Margaret Cox, who was suffering acute pain with neuralgia on one side of her face. In constant agony, Margaret was unable to sleep. Drugs administered orally did not relieve the pain.
On June 3rd, Dr. Rynne tried something that had never in the history of medicine been tried before. He used a thin, hollow needle to feed a solution of morphine and creosote into Margaret’s bloodstream. The pain ceased and Margaret was able to sleep soundly for the first time in months.
Dr. Rynd’s new technique of injecting dosages directly under a patient’s skin was soon used widely by other doctors to treat pain and has been hailed by health professionals as “the greatest boon to medicine since the discovery of chloroform”.
When Florence Nightingale (The Lady with the Lamp) was ill, she benefitted from Dr. Rynd’s discovery and said: “Nothing did me any good, but a curious little new-fangled operation of putting opium under the skin, which relieved the pain for twenty-four hours.”
So in 2021, millions of us will go to health centres to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Surely the world owes a great debt of gratitude to the great Irish doctor, Francis Rynd, who invented the hypodermic needle.