Rynd, Francis

Francis Rynd (1801-1861)

First Hypodermic Injection

Francis Rynd was born in Dublin in 1801, son of John Rynd of Ryndville, Co. Meath.   He attended Trinity College Dublin at 16 years, and was a medical student in the Meath Hospital under Sir Philip Crampton.   He was at first poor at his studies, as he had a passionate love of hunting, often skipping his hospital attendance to follow the hounds.   Crampton, despite these lapses, recognised Rynd’s potential and asked William Porter, one of the younger surgeons to watch him.   Porter treated him with great kindness, even taking him into his house.


Rynd made rapid progress under Porter’s tutelage, and after qualifying established his practice ultimately in 14 Hume Street.   He gained membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1830.   He had a highly successful and fashionable practice, including most of the Irish nobility, and was one of the few doctors admitted to the exclusive Kildare Club.   He aroused some degree of professional jealousy among his peers.


In 1836, Rynd took a surgical post at the Meath Hospital, becoming a colleague of Robert Graves, William Stokes and Sir Philip Crampton who had helped him as a student.   Rynd always regarded him with grateful affection and respect.


In 1844, Rynd treated a woman with a five-year history of episodes of intense facial pain, who had recently experienced three weeks of agony, unresponsive to the usual practices of bleeding, blistering and opium.   He treated her with a mixture of morphine and creosote delivered by a hypodermic needle to the deep nerves of the face supra-orbital, temporal, malar and buccal.   There was no plunger, and the solution was delivered by gravity feed.   She experienced complete relief of pain.


He went on to treat many cases of Sciatica and neuralgia in this way, with considerable success.   Medicines prior to this were delivered orally.   He was the first to inject substance directly into the body.   In the light of modern knowledge, it was not the morphine that had such dramatic effects, but the creosote which was highly neurotoxic and rapidly inhibited nerve function.


In 1853, a French physician Pravaz devised a plunger driven syringe, which was used by Hunter and Wood in England.   These all disputed over who had priority of discovery, but Rynd wrote a paper in 1861 demonstrating his technique of the first subcutaneous injection in 1844.   The current world market for syringes is $12 billion.


Rynd was medical superintendent of the Mountjoy Prison for some years.   He was also medical secretary to the Meath Hospital Board, where he tried to persuade Graves to retract his letter of resignation.   He made a great fortune from his private practice, but lost much of it on unwise investments.


He died in 1861 after a traffic incident where his carriage had knocked a woman down.   He checked that she was all right, but some men attacked the carriage, and after sending for the police he then pursued them personally.   He was seen to slump over the reins, while his horse bolted, and he died en route to hospital care.



Coakley, D. 1997, Irish Masters of Medicine, Town House.


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