Surgery: a timeline of developments over time
|The Prehistoric period
|Trephined skulls are amongst the archaeological finds in Peru.
Aboriginal medical practices show us how prehistoric man may have dealt with wounds, cysts and broken bones.
Human remains from the period show us that surgery was performed and that on many occasions it would have been effective.
|The Ancient World
|Babylon: The Laws of Hammurabi refer to use of bronze instruments to perform operations on the eye (c2000BC)
The Papyrus Edwin Smith cites 48 examples of traumatic injury cases and the treatments prescribed for them. This includes use of surgery.
The Mummification process shows that Egyptian physicians were aware of some of the working of the human body and that they were capable of removing organs.
The Papyrus Ebers has a section on removing tumours.
Greek writings refer to some operations. These are largely external operations such as the removal of arrowheads.
Healers at temples dedicated to Asclepius used a variety of cures including using non poisonous snakes to bite into infected areas.
Surgeons at the Gladiatiatorial games developed new skills as different types of weapon were used. Galen’s ideas about surgery were formed in his time working with Gladiators.
In Alexandria dissection was permitted at times.
Indian doctors are known to have removed gall stones during the Ancient period.
Indian doctors are known to have performed skin grafts in ancient times.
The importance of the Roman army led to Surgeons being better trained and more experienced.
Galen wrote about surgical techniques and undertook vivisection on animals to acquire more knowledge.
2nd century AD, Greece: Aretaeus is recorded as having performed invasive surgery on an abscess on or near the liver.
|John Arderne was a surgeon who gained experience of treating gunpowder wounds during the Hundred Years war. He also wrote about the use of hemlock as an anaesthetic.
Theodoric of Lucca was one of the first surgeons to challenge Ancient ideas. In particular he wrote about the need for Pus to be allowed to develop and for the need to clean wounds.
Wound Man illustrations are used by battlefield surgeons.
14th century, London: A Guild of Surgeons within the city of London’ is formed.
|Ligatures begin to replace the use of cauterisation on amputated patients.
Pare uses ointments for gunshot wounds.
Richard Wiseman develops surgical methods at the time of the English Civil Wars.
C1620, London: obstetric forceps are invented by Peter Chamberlain.
C1667: attempts are made to replace blood lost in surgery with that of a sheep.
|1799: Humphrey Davy notes the anaethetic qualities of ‘laughing gas’
1844, America: ‘Laughing Gas’ used as a painkiller in a dental operation for the first time.
1847, Scotland. James Simpson uses Chloroform as an anaesthetic for the first time.
1848. Hannah Greener, aged 15, dies whilst under chloroform. This leads to widespread condemnation of the use of anaesthetics.
1853, England. Queen Victoria is given chloroform during childbirth, an action which massively reduces opposition to the use of anaesthetics.
1861, France. Pasteur makes the link between microbes and disease. Visualise this idea transmitting throughout Europe, leading to…
1865, Glasgow. Joseph Lister makes use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic spray designed to reduce infection.
1878, Germany. Robert Koch discovers the microbes that cause wounds to go septic.
19th century, western Europe and North America: Direct Blood transfusions are attempted as a means of replacing lost blood. They are highly dangerous and many patients do not survive.
|The Modern World
|1901, Austria: Karl Landsteiner discovers that there are 4 blood groups. This leads to safer blood transfusions.
1967, South Africa: Dr Christiaan Barnard performs the first heart transplant.