A Sanguine Set of Meditations

This blog post has its root in one of my favorite movies of all time, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Fans of the movie might remember the scenes in which Lucy, Dracula’s first victim when he arrives in London, is given blood transfusions from several different men in an effort to keep her alive until the mysterious source of her illness can be pinpointed. (Hint: It’s Dracula)

Their efforts are of course ultimately unsuccessful....leading to this equally disturbing image. 

Their efforts are of course ultimately unsuccessful....leading to this equally disturbing image. 


The most bothersome part of this scene to me as a young adult wasn’t the archaic transfusion apparatus, or even the bad mustaches on Lucy’s many suitors. It was this thought: how on earth would they know whether or not Lucy and these men all had the same blood type? And, what would happen if she got a blood transfusion from someone of a different blood type?


This question was one of those that nags at you for years, but which you never take the time to actually find the answer to. Then, last week, I gave blood for the first time, which brought the notions of blood type and its detection/importance to the forefront of my mind in a wholly new way. So, I decided to do some gentle research--and what I’ve found is fascinating enough to share.


The true answer to my question about the events of Bram Stokers is that during the year in which the novel (and therefore the movie) is set, 1897, blood type was an undiscovered nuance of the human circulatory system. Science was close, though--only 5 years later in 1901, Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner discerned 3 main blood types, which he named A, B, and C (later to be renamed O). He deduced their existence by watching clotting action--blood will only clot with blood of it’s or another compatible type.


Landsteiner was also the one to unpuzzle the basic existence of Rh factor, what we think of as blood being positive and negative. A positive blooded person has the Rhesus factor, a protein, on their blood cells, while obviously a negative blooded person does not. The only real medical impact seems to be that Rh-negative pregnant women whose babies have Rh positive blood usually miscarry. Also, it can cause further complications when it comes to blood transfusions--someone with Rh negative blood can’t receive positive blood, though someone with positive blood can accept negative blood no problem.


Of course, all this talk about positive and negative immediately brings “optimist/pessimist” to mind, and it turns out that in Japanese and other East Asian cultures there are parallels drawn between blood type and a person’s disposition, often used in matchmaking. See if this fits you--or even better, if you can predict your blood type based on the descriptions. (If you can, consider a career as a psychic...especially since these descriptions differ all across the internet)


Type A:  earnest, punctual, stubborn, responsible, patient


Type B: wild, passionate, strong, irresponsible, unforgiving


Type AB: controlled, rational, critical, adaptable, aloof


Type O: confident, optimistic, self centered, workaholic, intuitive