January 1980

The Rise of Surgery: From Empiric Craft to Scientific Discipline

Author Affiliations

New Haven, Conn


by Owen H. Wangensteen and Sarah D. Wangensteen, $39.50, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1979.

Arch Surg. 1980;115(1):113-114. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1980.01380010091026

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I can vividly recall, over the gulf of a half century, eagerly listening to the senior author's discussions and presentations at eminent surgical meetings. The comments of Dr Wangensteen were almost always spiced with either direct or oblique references to medical history, each a gem. Erudition such as that has been the hallmark of his career: fundamental scientific research, clinical investigations, and excellence in operating room and bedside care; all these fine qualities now gleam in this labor of love, obviously guided carefully by the scholarly mind of his junior author.

Too often the medical historian is prone to denigrate the daring ventures of our surgical progenitors. The Wangensteens have dealt, on the contrary, with the forerunners in promoting a craft to a discipline with tender sympathy and equitable evaluations, respecting the limitations imposed on the pioneers by the absence of developments in the supporting disciplines that we now accept

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