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Moments in Surgical History
December 2000

William Stewart Halsted

Arch Surg. 2000;135(12):1478. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.12.1478

SURGICAL LORE CAN sometimes be enveloped in a hagiographic haze so that the lives of certain individuals and their accomplishments of intuitive and technical wizardry become mythologized. Such is the case with William Stewart Halsted (1852-1922), first professor of surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md. There is little doubting the fact that his efforts introduced a "new" American surgery, based as much on pathology and physiology as on anatomy. Halsted's list of accomplishments seems nearly endless, including: pioneering the use of cocaine for local anesthesia and setting the foundations for neuroregional anesthesia; introducing a host of surgical techniques and procedures for dealing with cancers, goiters, hernias, and aneurysms; and emphasizing the necessity for careful exacting procedures in the operating room, especially the need for aseptic surgery and tedious dissection.

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