A Timeline of Surgery

By Tim Lambert

Early Surgery

6,500 BC Skulls are trepanned

c 1,500 BC The Ancient Egyptians have some knowledge of anatomy from mummification. Egyptian surgeons use clamps, saws, forceps, scalpels and scissors. The Egyptians use honey as an antiseptic.

c 335-280 BC A Greek named Herophilus lives. He carried out dissections of human bodies in public. He is sometimes called the Father of Anatomy.

c 300 BC Ancient Greek surgeons bathe wounds with wine to prevent them becoming infected.

c 130-210 AD The Roman surgeon Galen lives. Many of his ideas are wrong but they dominate surgery for centuries.

476 AD The Roman Empire in the West falls. Afterwards many skills are lost in Western Europe but are kept alive in the Byzantine Empire and are later practiced by the Arabs.

13th Century In Europe surgery revives. In towns skilled craftsmen called barber-surgeons practice. They carry out amputations and set broken bones. However barber-surgeons are lower in status than university educated doctors.

Mid-14th Century The Church allows some dissections of human bodies at medical schools but the ideas of Galen continue to dominate

1452-1519 Leonardo Da Vinci lives. He dissects some human bodies and makes accurate drawings of them

1536 Ambroise Pare treats wounds with a mixture of egg yolk, rose oil and turpentine rather than hot oil

1543 Andreas Vesalius publishes The Fabric of the Human Body, which contains accurate diagrams of the human body. Vesalius bases his ideas on observation not the authority of people like Galen.

1728-1793 John Hunter, known as the Father of Modern Surgery lives

1735 The first recorded operation to remove an appendix takes place

1792 Dominique-Jean Larrey creates an ambulance service for wounded men

Modern Surgery

1842 Crawford Long uses ether as anesthetic

1847 James Simpson begins using chloroform

1865 Joseph Lister discovers antiseptic surgery

1883 Robert lawson Tait removes the fallopian tube of a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy

1890 Rubber gloves are first used in surgery

1895 Wilhelm Roentgen discovers x-rays

1896 Ludwig Rehn performs the first heart surgery

1905 Novocain is used as a local anesthetic

1914 The first non-direct blood transfusion is carried out

1950 The first kidney transplant is carried out, by Richard Lawler

1960 The first hip replacement surgery is performed

1962 Ronald Malt re-attaches a boy’s severed arm

1963 Thomas Starzl performs the first liver transplant

1964 Lasers are first used for eye surgery

1967 The first heart transplant is carried out by Christiaan Barnard

1987 The first heart and lung transplant is carried out

21st Century Surgery

2005 The first face transplant surgery is performed

2008 A laser is used in keyhole surgery to treat brain cancer

2011 The first leg transplant is carried out

2012 The first womb transplant is carried out