Clinical trials—from ancient Babylon to today

Medical Research
Clinical trial

500 BC In the first recorded experiment resembling a clinical trial, King Nebuchadnezzar compares a diet of meat and wine to a diet of beans and water and finds the vegetarian diet is healthier.

1025 AD Persian scientist Avicenna describes rules for designing a clinical trial of drugs to ensure reproducible results.

1537 French surgeon Ambroise Paré conducts the first trial of a novel therapy. After running out of boiling oil to treat battle wounds, he tries a cold ointment of egg yolk, rose oil and turpentine, which works much better.

1747 At sea, Scottish physician James Lind conducts the famous scurvy study—the first parallel-arm clinical trial. Sailors given citrus fruit recover quickly, unlike those given seawater and other treatments.

1863 US physician Austin Flint conducts the first clinical trial comparing an active treatment to a placebo. The dummy treatment works so well it becomes known as the “placebo remedy” for rheumatism.

1948 Sir Austin Bradford Hill designs the first randomized clinical trial to test streptomycin’s effectiveness against tuberculosis, which launches the modern era of clinical trial design.

1964 The Declaration of Helsinki sets forth ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects.

2015 President Obama unveils the Precision Medicine Initiative aimed at pioneering a new model of patient-centric clinical research.

2021 Hundreds of clinical trials are underway across Main Line Health, including studies of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and immune disorders.

Main Line Health is proud to participate in crucial research that can lead to improved detection, diagnosis and treatment of devastating disease.

Learn more about research and clinical trials.

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