Surgery - Hektoen International

Ernst von Bergmann, the surgeon who heat-sterilized surgical instruments

Ernst von Bergmann. Meisenbach Riffarth & Co., Berlin, c. 1890. Via Wikimedia. After Louis Pasteur showed that diseases were caused not by miasmas but by bacteria, Lord Lister pioneered antiseptic surgery by seeking to exterminate these unwelcome organisms with his carbolic acid pump. This martial approach was later followed by aseptic surgery, in which bacteria […]

Claudius Amyand (c. 1680–1740) of the first appendectomy

On the southwest corner of London’s Hyde Park once stood St. George’s Hospital, now relocated to the suburbs. It had been founded in 1733 by a group of surgeons who moved there from the Westminster Hospital. Among them was a surgeon whose Huguenot parents had fled from France after the revocation of the Edict of […]

Book review: The Facemaker: One Surgeon’s Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Facsimile of a wax teaching model made by Sergeant Thomas H. Kelsey for the New Zealand Medical Corps facial and jaw injury unit, c. 1917. British National Army Museum Copyright, released under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. “A chirurgien should have…the harte of a lyin…the eyes of a hawke…[and] the hands […]

Orthoses, prostheses, and splints

JMS Pearce Hull, England   These common words are sometimes confused. Orthosis is a term first used in English in 1857, from the Greek ὄρθωσις—“making straight.” It is a device that supports or assists residual function after illness or injury. Prosthesis is a Latin word derived from the ancient Greek πρόσθεσις, meaning “addition.” Like many […]

Walter Edward Dandy

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Figure 1. Walter Edward Dandy (left) and Harvey Cushing (right). Dandy from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Portrait Collection.2 In the history of American neurosurgery, two names stand out from the rest: Harvey Cushing (1869–1939) and Walter Edward Dandy (1886–1946). Sadly, they were inveterate rivals. Dandy was undoubtedly a brilliant pioneer […]

“What’s a soul?”: Richard Selzer finds the spirit in the flesh

Mahala Stripling Fort Worth, Texas, United States   Richard Selzer at the Elizabethan Club, 2004. Photo courtesy James L. Stripling. When he was a child, Dickie Selzer asked his father, “What’s a soul?” Julius replied, “No such thing.” When his inquisitive son pressed him further, he gave this answer: “Oh, a little bag of air, […]

Arthur William Mayo-Robson

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Figure 1. Arthur William Mayo-Robson. Photogravure. Wellcome Images via Wikimedia. Public domain. Arthur William Robson (1853–1933) (Fig 1) was born the son of a chemist John Bonnington Robson, in Filey, a popular Yorkshire seaside resort.1 He later added Mayo to his surname. He is reported as attending Wesley […]

The appendicitis conundrum

Jayant Radhakrishnan Nathaniel Koo Darien, Illinois, United States   Lorenz Heister (1683–1758) was a German surgeon and anatomist. In 1711, he described acute appendicitis in great detail and suggested that it be treated. From Institutiones chirurgicae, in quibus quicquid ad rem chirurgicam pertinet optima et novissima ratione pertractatur, Neapel, Antonio Cervone, 1749. Via Wikimedia. No […]

Dr. Dominique Larrey

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Larrey provokes contractions on a recently amputated limb. Illustration from Les merveilles de la science, 1867-1891, Tome 1, by Louis Figuier. Paris: Furne, Jouvet. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Dominique Jean Larrey (1766-1842), the orphaned son of a shoemaker, was raised by an uncle who was a surgeon and became a […]

Wilhelm Baum (1799–1883)

Wilhelm Baum. Photograph of painting by Wilhelm Title. Uploaded by Mehlauge. Via Wikimedia. Postgraduate medical education in the nineteenth century required personal contact with the masters of the profession – working and rounding with them, or at least listening to their lectures. Thus the German surgeon Wilhelm Baum spent one year after obtaining his doctorate […]