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Book Review
September 1998

American Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History of Their Manufacture and a Directory of Instrument Makers to 1900

Arch Surg. 1998;133(9):1020-1021. doi:

The importance of surgical instrument manufacturers to the history of American surgery is extensively chronicled in this beautifully illustrated treatise by Dr Edmunson. Starting with physicians in the British colonies of North America, the author launches an armchair discussion of the long and sometimes complicated history of the US surgical instrument trade up to 1900, introducing us to family businesses (and occasionally their foibles), the original artistry of their instruments (which gave way almost overnight to solid functionality with the onset of aseptic surgery), and the development of major centers of excellence in instrument production. He describes the gradual rise to prominence of this early American growth industry, which almost eliminated the need for European imports of surgical instruments, but suffered a major setback when Germany developed mechanized production of surgical instruments. The effects of war on the US surgical instrument business, beginning with the American Revolution, is also nicely detailed.

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