Easier to Swallow

Basil Hirschowitz
The original prototype of Basil Hirschowitz's fiber-optic endoscope is now in the Smithsonian Institution.

For patients in the 1950s and earlier, endoscopy must have felt something like sword swallowing. Back then, endoscopes—the illuminated devices that allow physicians to peer inside the body’s cavities—were straight, rigid, and metal. But in 1954, Basil I. Hirschowitz, M.D., threw the field a curve, adapting the new technology of fiber optics to create a flexible endoscope that offered a better view for physicians and more comfort for patients. He brought the revolutionary device to Birmingham in 1959, perfecting it and utilizing it regularly for the first time at University Hospital. In the half-century since, Hirschowitz’s endoscope has completely changed how physicians around the world diagnose and treat patients, becoming the standard tool for visualizing virtually every body cavity.




Did You Know?

Much of the research and testing for acid-suppressing drugs such as Zantac occurred at UAB in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.


Read more breakthrough stories in UAB Magazine.