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Books, Journals, New Media
April 24, 2002

History of SurgeryA History of Surgery

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2002;287(16):2147-2148. doi:10.1001/jama.287.16.2147-JBK0424-2-1

To write the history of a scientific discipline—particularly surgery, which involves science and art—is not an easy task, but Harold Ellis manages deftly and succinctly. Ellis walks ably in the corridors of surgery, recognizes the events worth emphasizing, analyzes the surgical concepts of the times, points out the important surgical figures, and puts them into perspective with great elegance. He understands the importance of the surgeon's world as one who has been there.

The book's presentation is superior, as is the quality of the more than 200 well-selected illustrations, which offer a good tutorial in the history of surgical figures and events. Ellis combines a chronological approach with the evolution of the surgical specialties, which is both refreshing and captivating. The front and back covers of the book are thoughtfully designed and artistically convey the old, the modern, and the new in surgical practice. The author, a well-known surgical historian, concentrates on the Anglo-Saxon-American world of surgery. By his own admission, his interest resides in personal heroes and events that shaped his life and career. He does not apologize for highlighting the events and figures he came to admire in his encounters with the surgical past, and he covers those figures and events extremely well. Perhaps his personal perspective should have been reflected in the book's title, but this is a minor consideration, and I am fully satisfied that he capably informs his readers of his particular views.

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