Robert McDonnell’s Blood Transfusion Apparatus

On loan courtesy of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (IE)
Object, 1865

Robert McDonnell was a prominent Irish surgeon in the 1800s. He carried out the first ever human-to-human blood transfusion in Ireland, in April 1865 in Jervis Street Hospital, Dublin. A fourteen year old girl, Mary Anne Dooley, was brought in after a workplace accident in a paper mill, in which her arm was torn and lacerated. In a final attempt to save her life Robert drew 350 millilitres of blood from his own arm, stirred it, strained it and syringed it back into Mary Anne. The girl improved but only for a short time, and ended up dying the next day.

The apparatus on display is the apparatus Robert used to carry out this first blood transfusion. Robert received his licence from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1851 and was elected its President in 1877.

This apparatus is one of over 1,500 antique medical instruments that are held in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Heritage Collections.

About the artist: 

Royal College of Surgeons is Ireland’s largest private independent medical college. This blood transfusion apparatus illustrates how much clinical practice and medical science has progressed and yet echoes the design of some of the speculative design works in BLOOD.