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Book Review
June 1, 2004

History of the Pancreas: Mysteries of a Hidden Organ

Arch Surg. 2004;139(6):689. doi:10.1001/archsurg.139.6.689

Authors John M. Howard, MD, and Walter Hess, MD, are 2 senior surgeons who have devoted their professional lives to the study of pancreatic diseases. Both with very interesting backgrounds (Dr Howard worked for Michael DeBakey, MD, at Baylor University [Waco, Tex], and Dr Hess trained with Rudolph Nissen, MD, at the University of Basel [Basel, Switzerland]), they have produced a comprehensive narrative of the history of the pancreas. The book is reasonably well illustrated with black-and-white reproductions of photographs of many important historical figures. There are 2 separate indexes: a subject index and an additional name index that provides invaluable assistance for the reader to locate the contributions of individual surgeons. A perusal of the name index identifies names not normally associated with pancreatic diseases. An example would be the contribution of Giovanni Morgagni, a pathologist best associated with congenital diaphragmatic hernia who is also credited with the first description of pancreatic cancer in 1761, nearly 100 years prior to the introduction of the microscope to pathologic study at autopsy and before the introduction of general anesthesia permitted operative abdominal exploration.