Falling pregnant

The seventeenth-century French surgeon François Mauriceau was one of the founders of modern obstetrics. Over several decades he studied every aspect of pregnancy, childbirth and the health of newborn babies, attempting to put the discipline on a new theoretically sound and anatomically-informed basis. His masterpiece, published in 1668, is the treatise Des maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées (‘Diseases of … Read more

An arrow escape

In 1871 the Surgeon-General’s office of the US Government published a document identified simply as Circular no 3. The dull bureaucratic title gives little hint of the varied material within: a comprehensive survey of surgical activity in the US Army during the preceding six years. As one London medical journal noted, the book gives some idea of the extraordinary range … Read more

Not getting his hands dirty

If you haven’t been watching the BBC2 comedy Quacks, you’re missing a treat. It’s set in the world of mid-Victorian medicine, an era when the discipline was beginning its dramatic metamorphosis into a rigorous science. Anaesthesia had just arrived on the scene, and a younger generation of surgeons and physicians was eager to discard outmoded thinking and replace it … Read more