Amputations were gruesome affairs before the advent of anesthesia. In the civilian population they would have been done mainly for ischemia, gangrene, and infections. In the image shown on the left, the man standing in the background wears a letter tau to indicate that he had suffered from St. Anthony’s fire, ergotism. He presumably has lost a hand from the same disease.


Feldtbuch der Wundartzney by Hans von Gersdorff and Johann Ulrich Wechtlin. Columbia University Libraries. A surgeon performing an amputation of the leg in the seventeenth century. Oil painting, 18– (?). Wellcome Collection. (CC BY 4.0). Grossen Chirugie (Great Surgery) by Walter Hermann Ryff. d. 1548. The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library.



Spring 2020  |  Sections  |  Surgery