Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Konrad Langenbeck 1776-1851

Son of a pastor, Konrad Johann Martin Langenbeck attended medical school in Jena, Germany, from 1794 to 1798, then practiced surgery in his home town of Horneburg. There he was so successful in carrying out eye operations that he received a stipend from the then court of Hanover for further studies in Vienna and Wurzburg. In 1802 he moved to Gottingen as a private surgeon and a teaching docent at the local teaching hospital, specializing particularly in treating wounds. In 1803, after a disagreement with his section chief, he established his own auditorium, giving lectures in anatomy. In 1807 he founded his own institute for surgery and ophthalmology and in 1814 became full professor at the university and chief of the Hanoverian army. He taught there for almost half a century and wrote prolifically, leaving behind eight compendia on anatomy and medicine—many in multiple volumes. In 1813 he performed the first vaginal hysterectomy on a woman who survived the surgery for twenty-six years; and he developed a surgical approach to facial neuralgia pain by severing the peripheral branches of the trigeminal nerve, offering temporary but not permanent relief. He was unusually narrow minded and had a very high opinion of himself. It is said that he divided people into two categories, those who could operate and those who were operated on. While he did not leave behind a long list of discoveries, he left a legacy of excellently trained surgeons. In his time, he was known for speed and precision during amputations, an essential quality in the days before anesthesia.


Black and white portrait of Konrad Johann Martin Langenbeck.
Portrait of Konrad Johann Martin Langenbeck (1776 – 1851), Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at Göttingen by Ludwig Emil Grimm. 1826. Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art. Public Domain.



Fall 2019   |  Sections  |  Surgery

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