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June 18, 1955

A SURGEON TAKES A SECOND LOOK AT SURGERY

Author Affiliations

Philadelphia

John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania.

JAMA. 1955;158(7):532-534. doi:10.1001/jama.1955.02960070008003
Abstract

In 1805 Philip Syng Physick was made professor of surgery in my alma mater, the first time anyone, to my knowledge, was elected solely to a chair of surgery in any school of medicine. Harvey's discovery of the circulation had been made nearly 200 years previously, and Malpighi had described the capillaries nearly half a century before Physick's appointment was made. John Hunter had laid the foundation for pathological anatomy. Humphry Davy, working in Dr. Beddoes' Pneumatic Institute, had stated a few years previously, "Since nitrous oxide is capable of annuling pain, it might be used in surgical operations in which there is no great effusion of blood." While medicine, and surgery as a part of it, was still in large part steeped in medieval empiricism, here and there were to be found men who were calling on science to assist in dispelling mystery and revealing the truth. Some there

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