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April 1929


Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, the Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Lakeside Hospital, Cleveland.

Arch Surg. 1929;18(4):1190-1199. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1929.01140130280013

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Surgery began as a child of trauma. When our prehistoric ancestors fell from trees or their descendants stumbled at the mouth of a cave and broke their bones, there appeared the need of some form of treatment. Men injured in battles—in early days restricted to personal encounters, though now through what is called civilization involving whole nations—needed care. Splinting, bandaging and perhaps even the use of the tourniquet must have been the earliest developments. Later, with sharpened flint, blood was let, abscesses emptied, tissues scarified, and even skulls trephined. Gradually, experience demonstrated the best methods of care. By repeated application of this elementary knowledge, a certain degree of skill was developed, and the first teachers of surgery began to hand on their craftsmanship. Thus surgery began as an art. By an art is meant the skilful application of knowledge in effecting a desired result. It is a matter of

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