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February 1973

Forgotten Firsts

Arch Surg. 1973;106(2):133-134. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1973.01350140001001

A surgical house officer bent on a teaching career may view the rungs of the academic ladder with alarm. He reads the labels. They say, "new ideas," and his mind is a desert. Here is some advice. "Visit the library."

At the time of recognition by the medical public, few of the great surgical advances were "firsts." Consider the careful wording of the plaque in the Ether Dome in Massachusetts General Hospital: "... Knowledge of this discovery spread from this room throughout the civilized world and a new era from surgery began." The article by Bigelow in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal appeared on Nov 18, 1846, a bare month after the event of the 16th of October.1 But Crawford Long used ether on patients in 18422 and before him Hickman3 reported that carbon dioxide had an anesthetic effect on dogs. It is true that Long did

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