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Moments in Surgical History
April 2002

Elements of Surgery: America's First Systematic Treatise on Surgery

Arch Surg. 2002;137(4):494-495. doi:10.1001/archsurg.137.4.494

THERE ARE several claimants to the title of America's first surgery book. In an era when smallpox inoculation was considered a surgical operation, Zabdiel Boylston's (1679-1766) An Historical Account of the Small-Pox Inoculated in New England (1730) could be considered the colonies' earliest surgical text. However, this short monograph was more an epidemiologic review of a smallpox outbreak than a systematic surgical textbook. Second in line is John Jones' (1729-1791) Plain Concise Practical Remarks on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures (1775). This volume was the standard guide for surgical care during the Revolutionary War. Historians have long criticized Jones' effort as being little more than a condensation of the teachings of various European surgeons. In 1811, Valentine Seaman (1770-1817) authored Pharmacoepia Chirurgica in Usum Nosocomii Novi Eboracencis, a 47-page account of the remedies used in clinical practice at New York Hospital's surgical department. Interleaved with blank pages, Seaman's effort was the first published formulary for a civilian hospital in the United States, but it was not a surgical text.

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