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The Timeline: Blood donation

1901: Not all blood is the same

After more than 200 years of attempting blood transfusions with very mixed results, in 1901 Dr Karl Landsteiner makes the discovery that not all blood is the same and identifies four main groups: A, B, AB and O. Once that is understood, it makes way for the successful transfusion of human blood.

1915: Transfusion transformed

After Richard Lewison discovers that sodium citrate can be used as an anticoagulant in 1915, it transforms the blood transfusion procedure from direct (vein-to-vein) to indirect. Later that year Richard Weil demonstrates that anticoagulated blood can be refrigerated and two years later, the production of a citrate-glucose solution means blood can be stored for several days, which leads to the opening of the UK's first "blood depot".

1921: Volunteer here

In 1921 members of the British Red Cross all volunteer to give blood at King's College Hospital, London. It is the first record of blood donation and in effect creates the first voluntary blood service.

1936: The bank is open

The world's first blood bank is opened at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, in 1936 by Bernard Fantus. In creating a hospital laboratory that preserves and stores donor blood, Fantus originates the term "blood bank". A year later, Britain follows suit and opens one in Ipswich.

1940s: National service

As the Second World War rages on, so there is a greater need for blood to treat the wounded. Eight regional transfusion centres are set up and thousands do their bit by donating blood and helping to save the lives of a huge number of people. In 1946 the National Blood Service is launched, a whole two years before the National Health Service.

1986: Screening begins

Following the identification of HIV and AIDs at the beginning of the decade, in 1986 blood donations begin to be tested for the HIV virus. Five years later, testing for hepatitis C is also introduced.

2011: A drop in donations

Experts use National Blood Week to express their concern at a reported 20 per cent drop in donations from those aged 17 to 34, fearing a generation gap in donors.