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Arthur Coga’s Blood Transfusion (1667)



An Account of the Experiment of Transfusion, Practised upon a Man in London; 1667; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, London.

An account by Dr Edmund King given to The Royal Society of the first ever blood transfusion involving a human in England. Six months after he successfully completed a blood transfusion between two dogs, the experimental physician Richard Lower, with the help of Dr King, administered 9oz of sheep’s blood into the body of Arthur Coga, a Divinity Student from Cambridge who subjected himself to the experiment in return for a Guinea. Lower describes Coga as “the subject of a harmless form of insanity”, the perfect candidate for the experiment as it was just such a tempestuous nature which Lower and his colleagues hoped to calm by the introduction of the blood of a gentle lamb – in addition to the fact that he was well educated and so able to talk about his experiences (indeed, Coga, produced, in Latin, an account of his own experiences of the trial). When Coga himself was asked why blood from a sheep was used he replied, in Latin, “Sanguis ovis symbolicam quandam facultatem habet cum sanguine Christi, quia Christus est agnus Dei” (Sheep’s blood has some symbolic power, like the blood of Christ, for Christ is the Lamb of God.) Despite a second transfusion and many attempts to show Coga had changed in character, it appeared that the experiment was a failure in this respect.

(A transcript below via Wikisource. You can also see the original handwritten manuscript of the account here at Wellcome Images)

An Account Of the Experiment of Transfusion, practised upon a Man in London.

This was perform’d, Novemb. 23. 1667. upon one Mr. Arthur Coga, at Arundel-house, in the presence of many considerable and intelligent persons, by the management of those two Learned Physicians and dextrous Anatomists Dr. Richard Lower, and Dr. Edmund King, the latter of whom communicated the Relation of it, as followeth.

The Experiment of Transfusion of Blood into an humane Vein was made by Us in this manner. Having prepared the Carotid Artery in at young Sheep, we inserted a Silver-Pipe into the Quills to let the Blood run through it into a Porringer, and in the space of almost a minute, about 12 ounces of the Sheeps bloud ran through the Pipe into the Porringer; which was somewhat to direct us in the quantity of Bloud now to be transfus’d into the Man. Which done, when we came to prepare the Vein in the Man’s Arm, the Vein seem’d too small for that Pipe, which we intended to insert into it; so that we imployed another, about one third part less, at the little end. Then we made an incision in the Vein, after the method formerly publisht, Numb. 28; which method we observ’d without any other alteration, but in the shape of one of our Pipes; which we found more convenient for our purpose. And, having open’d the Vein in the Man’s Arm, with as much ease as in the common way of Venæ-seetion, we let thence run out 6 or 7 ounces of Blood. Then we planted our silver Pipe into the said Incision, and inserted Quills between the two Pipes already advanced in the two subjects, to convey the Arterial bloud from the Sheep into the Vein of the Man. But this Blood was near a minute, before it had past through the Pipes and Quills into the Arm; and then it ran freely into the Man’s Vein for the space of 2 minutes at least; so that we could feel a Pulse in the said Vein just beyond the end of the silver Pipe; though the Patient said, he did not feel the Blood hot, (as we reported of the subject in the French Experiment) which may very well be imputed to the length of the Pipes, through which the blood passed, losing thereby so much of its heat, as to come in a temper very agreeable to Venal Blood. And as to the quantity of Blood receiv’d into the Man’s Vein, we judge, there was about 9 or 10 ounces: For, allowing this Pipe ⅓ less than that, through which 12 ounces pass’d in one minute before, we may very well suppose, it might in 2 minutes convey as much blood into the Vein, as the other did in the Porringer in one minute; granting withall, that the Blood did not run so vigorously the second minute, as it did the first, nor the third, as the second, &c. But, that the Blood did run all the time of those two minutes, we conclude from thence; First, because we felt a Pulse during that time. Secondly, because when upon the Man’s saying, He thought, he had enough, we drew the Pipe out of his Vein, the Sheeps blood ran through it with a full stream; which it had not done, if there had been any (top before, in the space of those two minutes; the blood being so very apt to coagulate in the Pipes upon the least stop, especially the Pipes being so long as three Qulls.

The Man after this operation, as well as in it, found himself very well, and hath given in his own Narrative under his own hand, enlarging more upon the benefit, he thinks, he hath received by it, than we think fit to own as yet. He urg’d us to have the Experiment repeated upon him within 3 or 4 days after this; but it was thought advisable, to put it off somewhat longer. And the next time, we hope to be more exact, especially in Weighing the Emittent Animal before and after the Operation, to have a more just account of the quantity of Blood, it shall have lost.

Housed at: Internet Archive | From: The Royal Society
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
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