A brief history of dialysis and transplantation

Peritoneal dialysis

Read a
more detailed account of the early days of dialysis and other resources below

Table showing important milestones. Links from the tables are mostly to our own pages.

Milestones in the development of modern haemodialysis
1861 The process of dialysis was first described by Thomas Graham (Glasgow) More
1913 Artificial kidney developed - John Abel (Baltimore) More
1924 First human dialysis - George Haas (Giessen) More
1943 Rotating drum dialyzer - Kolff and Berk (Kampen) - the first practical dialyser More
1946 Coil dialyzers - George Murray (Canada), Nils Alwall (Sweden; more)
1946-7 First dialyses in Britain - Bywaters and Joekes (Hammersmith); Darmady (Portsmouth)
1948 Kolff-Brigham machine. As used in the Korean war for acute renal failure
1955 Twin coil dialyzer - Watschinger and Kolff More
1956-7 Dialysis recommenced in the UK in Leeds (Parsons), London (Shackman) and RAF Halton (Jackson) Report from Edinburgh on these centres in 1958
1960 Kiil dialyzer (Oslo) Picture
1960 Scribner shunt (Seattle) More
1960 Clyde Shields (d1971), Harvey Gentry (d1987) commenced haemodialysis in Seattle - the first long-term dialysis patients Read a contemporary account
1961 Dialysis using a domestic washing machine (later leading to the Maytag program in Cleveland; Nose, Japan) More
1964 Home dialysis introduced by Shaldon (London), Scribner (Seattle), Merrill (Boston) More
1965 Hepatitis outbreaks in the UK More - hepatitis in Edinburgh, 1969
1966 Internal AV fistula developed - Brescia, Cimino (New York) More
1972 Aluminium toxicity More
1975 Haemofiltration introduced (Henderson, Quellhorst)
1977 Continuous arteriovenous haemofiltration described
1981 Dialysis-related amyloidosis described
1986 Recombinant erythropoietin introduced


Milestones in the development of peritoneal dialysis
1744 Peritoneal lavage undertaken by the Rev. Stephen Hales
1877 Experimental studies of the peritoneum
1923 First human peritoneal dialysis - Ganter
1946 Treatment of acute renal failure by PD - Frank, Seligman, Fine (Boston); Reid (UK); Tanret (Paris); Kop (Netherlands) More
1959 Intermittent PD - Ruben and Doolan (Oakland, CA)
1964 Repeated puncture method introduced More
1965 Stylet catheter (Trocath) introduced
1968 Tenckhoff catheter introduced
1976 CAPD describe - Moncrieff and Popovich (Austin, Texas) More
1981 CCPD


Thanks to Stewart Cameron for correcting and improving these tables.

Milestones in kidney transplantation
1933 First human renal transplant (unsuccessful) - Voronoy More
1936 Histocompatibility antigens described in mice - Snell
1944 Accelerated rejection of a second transplant described in rabbits - Medawar
1954 First successful human renal transplant, between identical twins - Murray and Merril (Boston) More
1962 First successful cadaver transplant and first use of azathioprine - Murray and Calne More
1962 Second use of azathioprine - Edinburgh's third renal transplant More
1965 Tissue typing using white blood cells - van Rood/ van Leeuwen, Terasaki
1976 UK brain death guidelines facilitate retrieval from heart-beating cadaveric donors
1983 Cyclosporine licensed as new immunosuppressive drug

Other resources

Even now its difficult to find very good information on the Web.

Read our own more detailed account of the early history of dialysis. The History of Nephrology blog goes into more detail on particular issues.

The history of peritoneal dialysis is described quite well in an article that was once on the International Society for PD site. You can still find the ISPD history of PD document, maybe it is linked from here.

The ISN Video Legacy project provides remarkable interviews with Abel and Kolff, two major players in the initial development of haemodialysis. The ISN's historical resources unfortunately now require a members login, but if you have one they are available here.

Stanley Shaldon's online lecture, from a talk in Osaka in 2001, includes a fascinating, prolifically illustrated personal account of the excitements and disappointments of the early days of haemodialysis. It is demanding of internet connection speeds and software, but worth watching.
There was a great Quicktime movie about the use of the Kolff Brigham dialysis machine in the Korean War on the website of the nephrology section of the Walter Reed Army Center. But it's gone. Let us know if you find it, and we'll point to it.

Books on the history of dialysis

The best history of dialysis is now Stewart Cameron's book: J.S. Cameron, History of the Treatment of Renal Failure by Dialysis (OUP, Oxford, 2002).

Previously the best earlier account was by William Drukker and was chapter 3 in the third edition of Replacement of Renal Function by Dialysis, edited by John F. Maher, published by Kluwer, 1989. His account of the history of peritoneal dialysis, chapter 22 in the same volume, was also good but less comprehensive.

Nephrology more widely

Richard Bright is widely regarded as the father of nephrology because of his classic descriptions of nephritis in the 1840s. He was a graduate of Edinburgh University who spent much of his highly productive working life at Guy's Hospital in London. The account from the Roscoe Robinson History of Nephrology Collection at Vanderbilt University is worth reading.

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