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leading innovation

Case Western Reserve University boasts an impressive and varied list of "firsts" and Nobel Laureates with ties to the university. From medical breakthroughs to major advancements in industry and applied sciences, the schools and college of Case Western Reserve and its predecessor institutions have long been—and continue to be—leading centers of innovation and groundbreaking research.

  • 1885: First independent alumni association established in the United States.

  • 1896: Professor Dayton C. Miller takes the first full x-ray of the human body (his own).

  • 1897: Alumnus Herbert Dow establishes Dow Chemical Company.

  • 1905: The first modern blood transfusion, using a canula (coupling device) to join blood vessels, was completed by surgeon George Crile, a faculty member in Western Reserve University's Medical Department and one of the founding members of the Cleveland Clinic.

  • 1912: Medical Department Professor Roger Perkins develops a process for chlorinating drinking water, an important step in eradicating the source of typhoid bacilli.

  • 1915: The first simulated milk formula for infants is created by alumnus and Professor of Pediatrics Henry Gerstenberger.

  • 1916: William R. Collings makes America's first magnesium metal.

  • 1921: Case Western Reserve is the first college to have a nationwide alumni celebration via radio "National Case Clubs" night.

  • 1926: Andrea S. Myers becomes the first Case woman to complete work at the graduate level.

  • 1930: Alumnus Al Gross invents the walkie talkie. In 1949 he invents the pager.

  • 1935: The first surgical treatment of coronary artery disease is executed by Dr. Claude S. Beck, the nation's first professor of cardiovascular surgery at Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He also performed the first successful defibrillation of the human heart in 1947, taught the first course in CPR in 1950, and performed the first successful reversal of a potentially fatal heart attack and the first removal of a heart tumor.

  • 1958: Former university president T. Keith Glennan becomes the first president of NASA.

  • 1959: University astronomers are the first to detect Super-Giant Stars.

  • 1960: The university establishes the world's first Systems Research Center.

  • 1961: The first successful genetic alteration of human cells in a test tube is performed by School of Medicine Professor Austin Weisberger. His achievement demonstrates how living cells can be manipulated with DNA from other cells.

  • 1964: Organizational Behavior is launched as a new management discipline by several faculty in the Division of Organizational Sciences.

  • 1967: Alumnus Robert W. Kearns patents the intermittent windshield wiper. His ensuing legal battle with Ford and Chrysler is the subject of the 2008 film "Flash of Genius."

  • 1968: The Department of Biomedical Engineering is founded. It is the first joint department between schools of medicine and engineering.

  • 1972: Case Western Reserve establishes the first Macromolecular Science Department in the United States.

  • 1973: Anthropologist Donald Johanson discovers Lucy, who at the time was the earliest known hominid ancestor of present-day man.

  • 1973: Chemist and alumnus Paul C. Lauterbur introduces intentional gradients into the magnetic field of and NMR spectrometer, which leads to the development of modern MRI.

  • 1977: Alumnus Frank Rudy creates the Nike Air Sole.

  • 1987: Alumnus Larry Hornbeck invents the Digital Micromirror Device at Texas Instruments. His digital light display brought cinema into the digital age and is later used in applications from flat screen televisions and laptop computers to cell phones.

  • 1986: A man paralyzed from the neck down is able to grasp and lift a coffee mug for the first time since his 1977 diving accident, thanks to the development of the first implantable electrode stimulator system by professor P. Hunter Peckham.

  • 1988: Biomedical engineering professor Michael Neuman and colleagues C.C. Liu and Wen Ko develop respiratory sensors to monitor the breathing of premature infants.

  • 1990: A national team led by rheumatologist and School of Medicine Professor Roland Moskowitz discovers the gene for osteoarthritis.

  • 1991: First triple organ transplant in Ohio—a kidney, liver and pancreas—is performed by Dr. James A. Schulak and colleagues.

  • 1991: A former Marine, whose legs were paralyzed in friendly fire five years earlier, stands and walks for the first time, because of an implantable electrical stimulator developed at Case Western Reserve.

  • 1992: Case Western Reserve tackles one of the leading cause of medical device failure—blood clotting—when professor Roger Marchant examines interactions of devices and blood proteins that cause clotting. The work paves the way for better biomaterials for vascular implants like stents and artificial grafts.

  • 1993: Biomedical engineering faculty and students develop and commercialize software for the first intravascular ultrasound—a non-surgical way to see blocked arteries.

  • 1995: Alumnus Craig Newmark invents Internet classified ad giant Craigslist.

  • 1997: A team from the School of Medicine Department of Genetics led by Professor Huntington Willard creates the first artificial human chromosome. The discovery represents a powerful new tool for the study of human genetics and a technical achievement in the quest to cure genetic diseases.

  • 2000: For the first time, a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic patient breathes on his own, using an electrical device implanted in his diaphragm for nerve stimulation. The technology was derived from groundbreaking research by professor J. Thomas Mortimer. Actor Christopher Reeve receives a similar device three years later.
  • 2003: Professor Miklos Gratzl develops the silver sensor: a splinter-like device that can be inserted just below the skin to measure a myriad of variables. It functions for months instead of days and could be used to monitor the health of astronauts on long missions.

  • 2004: Case Western Reserve University School of Law launches the new War Crimes Research Portal.

  • 2004: Professor Yoram Rudy develops a nonsurgical vest of hundreds of electrodes, along the electrical activity of a single heartbeat to be imaged for the first time without surgical intervention. The method is dubbed electrocardiography imaging (ECGI).

  • 2006: The first link of oral bacteria and preterm birth is found in humans by researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine.

  • 2008: Professor Sanford Markowitz helps develop an at-home test for colon cancer.

  • 2008: Case Western Reserve professors create a new material that mimics the sea cucumber and could revolutionize implantable biomedical devices. The biomaterial is hard during manufacturing but soft in the body's watery environment. It's less likely to irritate the immune system and discourages infection and scarring.
  • Learn more about the history of Case Western Reserve, read about our campus today by the numbers, or learn about our latest research achievements in Think.

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