When Were Latex Gloves Invented


Many people believe that Latex gloves were invented so that the spread of infections or disease could be prevented in medical settings. That actually isn’t true! William Stewart Halsted, who was the first chief of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, invented the Latex glove in 1889 for a very different reason. His staff was getting dermatitis and other skin irritations because of the surgical chemicals that were being used. By wearing the gloves, his staff could protect their skin.

These gloves are different than the modern medical glove. Some contain Latex, but they also contain other polymers as well. Gloves that one would wear for dishwashing or construction purposes today are closer to the Latex gloves that Halsted invented. Halsted, who was born in 1852, was also a pioneer of other medical advancements. Here is a look at some of his work.

1. Radical Mastectomy

Breast cancer has always been a killer of women, although sometimes men can catch this deadly disease as well. During Halsted’s era, there wasn’t the advanced imaging technology that is used today for early detection. What he needed to do was come up with treatments that could save a patient’s life in an effective way. That’s why he developed the idea of the radical mastectomy, which would remove all of a patient’s breast tissue and in theory, the breast cancer as well.

2. Halsted’s Principles

Some of today’s modern surgical principles were initially introduced by Halsted – not bad for a guy that was addicted to cocaine and morphine for a majority of his life. His idea was that a clean environment would lead to better surgical outcomes, as would exact wound closures that weren’t too tight. He believed in handling tissues gently, complete sterility, and anatomical dissection.

3. Gallbladder Surgery

One of the things that people don’t necessarily know Halsted for is that he performed one of the first successful gallbladder surgeries in the United States. He has good reason to do so because it was his mother who was stricken with an inflammation. He performed the surgery on the kitchen table in the middle of the night.

4. Blood Transfusions

Halsted is also known as the doctor who performed one of the first blood transfusions in the United States. This also involved his family – after being called to see his sister after a successful childbirth, he found her to be in an extremely weakened state from a loss of blood. Halsted transfused his own blood with his sister and then performed an operation to stem blood loss, which ultimately saved her life.

William Halsted also pioneered research into intestinal and hernia diagnoses, research on the thyroid, and even surgery for aneurisms. He is often considered one of the best physicians not just in the Johns Hopkins group, but in the United States for his pioneering work.

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