Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood are often credited with being the first to develop a syringe with a needle fine enough to pierce the skin in 1853. However, the Iraqi/Egyptian surgeon Ammar ibn 'Ali al-Mawsili' technically invented the first such syringe in the 9th century using a hollow glass tube and suction to remove cataracts from patient's eyes, a practice that remained in use up until at least 1230 and which came into renewed use in the 20th century.
Syringes are used in conjunction with hypodermic needles for injections of liquid or gasses into body tissues, or for their removal from the body. They may also be used for injections across the rubber septum of a medical device, container, or scientific apparatus such as in certain types of chromatography. The injection of air into a blood vessel is undesirable, as it may cause a gas embolism. Prevention of embolisms by removing air from the syringe is the source of the familiar image of holding a syringe upside down, tapping it, and expelling a small amount of liquid before an injection into the bloodstream.
The barrel of a syringe is made of either plastic or glass, and usually has graduated marks indicating the volume of fluid in the syringe. Glass syringes may be sterilized by the use of an autoclave, however, modern medical syringes are made from plastic because it is cost-effective to dispose of them, which further reduces the risk of spreading blood-borne diseases. The re-use of needles and syringes has been associated with the spread of diseases, especially HIV and Hepatitis among IV drug users.
In applications where transfer of pathogens is not an issue and a very high degree of precision is important (i.e., quantitative chemical analysis), glass syringes are still used because their tolerance is lower and the plunger moves more smoothly.
Syringes may also be used when cooking meat to enhance flavor and texture by injecting juices inside the meat, and in baking to inject filling inside a pastry. Syringes have also been used for refilling ink cartridges with ink.