Historical Images

Images of surgical treatments have been portrayed with many voices and techniques.
This pictorial history in reverse chronologic order from the present to the past highlight the
influences of culture, knowledge and technology on medical progress.

Copyrighted material is reproduced in low resolution and believed compliant with
the fair use principle of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. These images
are for educational purposes and not available for licensing or sale.

(Hover over image to enlarge)

Joe Wilder, M.D. (1921-2003)

Joe Wilder, M.D. was a prominent surgeon and an artist. He was largely self-taught and specialized in oil paintings of race cars, athletes, and surgical procedures. In contrast to the bright colors of his still life paintings, his pictures of the operating rooms are contemplative, brooding and somber in dark blues, magentas and greens. He painted the aura of the operating rooms with fuzzy brush strokes, filling each part of the canvas with surgical detail. The ongoing surgical procedure can be surmised by the body language of the towering surgeons, the gloved hands, the tiled walls and the defining circular lights. The patient and the vital colors of surgery are frequently hidden beneath rows of baggy gowns and masked faces.
...link to feature article in Dartmouth Medicine, Fall 2002

Eroticism (1990)

In contrast to flowers and fruits, human organs are seldom the subject of works of art. Yet to a surgeon the elements of the still life painting, symmetry, form, texture, and color, are the essential elements of diagnosis and treatment. In the graphic image Eroticism (1990) Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) shows duplicate images of a human cerebral cortex. Her title evokes the eternal question: What is the most important reproductive organ of the human species? Before Chadwick died of heart failure at the age of 42, she created many unconventional images which challenged the public perception of the human body.
...link to Tate Modern Museum, London, U.K.

Acupuncture Anesthesia (1976)

Western physicians have been skeptical about the efficacy of the ancient Chinese technique of acupuncture for the relief of pain during major surgery. Nevertheless, acupuncture anesthesia during heart surgery is depicted in this 1976 eight cent postal stamp from the People's Republic of China.

Tunnels of Củ Chi (1968)

The tunnels of Củ Chi are a network of underground tunnels outside Saigon),The tunnels were begun in 1948 to hide from the French and later used to hide from the Americans. By 1968 there were over 200 kilometers of connected tunnels housing up to 18,000 people. Viet Cong would spend the day in the tunnels and emerge at night to scavenge for supplies, tend crops or engage in battle. Malaria was the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds. Dormitories and kitchens housed and fed the residents. This photo by Dung Thanh Phong shows a subterranean operating room where a surgical team treats a wounded man by the light of a handheld flashlight.

NIH Clinical Center (1955)

The surgical repair of intracardiac anomalies require a bloodless and motionless heart. Technical innovations in the 1950's including hypothermic circulatory arrest, cross-circulation, and extracorporeal circulation with an oxygenator and heat exchanger made this possible.

Surgery, Halem Hospital (1953)

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) is considered one of America's foremost African American artists. He is most noted for his abstract, colorful story panels describing historically important African Americans. His painting, Surgery, Harlem Hospital (1953), captures the look and feel of the operating room with cubist two-dimensional accuracy. The white gowns of the surgical team are framed in a cathedral perspective. Brown faces are hidden behind white masks and oversized angular hands lead the viewer's eyes to the central fiery surgical opening.
...more about Jacob Lawrence

La Raza Mural (1953)

The History of Medicine in Mexico: the Peoples Demand for Better Health, Hospital de la Raza, Mexico City (1953) is the final mural completed by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). Science, technology, nature, sociology, history and politics all come together in multiple evocative images. Dominant themes relate scientific medicine with pre-Columbian folk cures as well as healthcare motivated by profit compared to free care for the poor.

Frank H. Netter (1906-1991)

Several generations of medical students have studied human anatomy, pathology and pathophysiology from the illustrations of Frank H. Netter. Netter came to medicine after working as a commercial artist. Following medical school he trained as a surgeon and briefly practiced this specialty in Manhattan before committing his professional life to medical illustration. His full page plates show multiple medical images of photographic accuracy joined together by diagrams and text. His illustrations tell stories of structure and function in the context of health and disease. His images are appreciated for both their aesthetic qualities and their intellectual content.

Hope, Stay Strong (1946)

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is an artist whose life and creativity were driven by illness and surgery. The daughter of a photographer and the wife of muralist Diego Rivera, her best known works depict her chronic pain from spina bifida, childhood poliomyelitis, spinal trauma and leg amputation. Confined to bed for long periods of time, Frida gave up her medical studies and began painting from a recumbent position. During 1946-1950 she underwent 8 operations to her spine which she depicts in her dual self-portraits named Tree of Hope, Stay Strong (1946). The right portrait shows a regally seated Frida holding a spine corset. The left portrait shows her lying on a gurney with two large bloody scars on her back. The surreal landscape reveals an earth crumbling at her feet. In July 1954 Frida Kahlo died following pneumonia. The cause of death was recorded as pulmonary embolism.

Blalock-Taussig Shunt (1945)

Something the Lord Made, is based on how Alfred Blalock, MD and his assistant, Vivien T. Thomas, together with pediatrician, Helen B. Taussig, MD (1898- 1986), developed the Blalock-Taussig Shunt for the surgical correction of Tetralogy of Fallot.
...link to John Hopkins' Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives

Hospital Ship (1945)

The hospital ship, USS Solace (AH-5), a converted passenger liner, joined the USS Relief (AH-1) as the second US Navy white-hulled hospital ship in 1941. The USS Solace saw duty at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and throughout the war in the Pacific. The photo (from "Battle Station Sick Bay" by Jan K Herman, Naval Institute Press, p. 180, 1997) show a surgeon on the USS Solace repairing an intestinal perforation during the Battle of Okinawa (1945).

Surgery through the Ages (1944)

In 1928 the Davis and Geck Company began producing surgical films documenting surgical techniques. The films became known as the Cliné Clinic Films. Davis and Geck also produced a series of dramatic advertisements titled "Sutures in Ancient Surgery," later published as Surgery through the Ages" (1944) The series featured prints by photographer Lejaren à Hiller (1880-1969) who staged cinematic photographs with elaborate costumes, dramatic backgrounds and semi-nude young women posing as patients. The series created images of surgeons from ancient Egypt and India, from the Aztecs and from the middle Ages. It included this image described as "XVI century Giovanni Andrea Della Croce performs a successful hysterectomy." The collection received wide acclaim, including the Edward Bok Award for advertising in 1937.

The Hands of Dr. Moore (1940)

Las Manos del Dr. Moore by Diego Rivera (1886-1957) firmly establishes Rivera's imagery at the crossroads of surgery, religion, culture and technology. The image shows a surrealistic surgical setting in which the surgeon's ungloved hands hold a bloody sponge and a scalpel as he cuts through a large and ambiguous blood vessel which resembles both a tree and a woman. In place of leaves, the tree has binary cells in stages of meiosis. The trunk of the tree divides into roots that extend down through the abdominal incision. The image links the fractal structure of blood vessels to the fractal structure of trees with allegories to the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.

Newcastle (1940)

Daniel M. Fox and Christopher Lawrence in their 1988 book, Photographing Medicine: Images and Power in Britain and America since 1840, document and discuss the images which accompanied the transition of healthcare as a cottage industry to the healthcare provided by large urban hospitals, from portraiture to documentary realism. This photograph on page 247 depicts Dr. G. Grey-Turner in the operating theatre in Newcastle in 1940. (Attributed to the Wellcome Institute Library, London)

Rational Medicine (1938)

Rational Medicine (1938) and Primitive Surgery (1935), murals by Bernard Baruch Zakheim (1896-1985), depict the history of medicine. Originally part of a 12 panel WPA. project, the Toland Hall Murals (10 panels) and the Cole Hall Murals (2 panels)are named after their original locations at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. Zakheim included the faces of many faculty members including H. Glenn Bell (1893-1981), professor of surgery, and Chauncy Leake (1896-1978), professor of pharmacology and discoverer of divinyl ether anesthesia. Unappreciated in the 1940s, the murals were covered with wallpaper. In 1962, when the murals were uncovered, they were severely damaged. In mid 1967, the old medical school building was demolished, and the artist and his family raised money to save and restore the murals which now reside in the Health Sciences West building.

Creative Camera Art (1937)

Max Thorek, MD(1880-1960) was an internationally known surgeon, a recognized photographer of the Pictorialist Movement and a master of the paper negative printing process. This photograph titled "Suspense", on page 64 of Creative Camera Art (1937), is typical of his photographic technique and shows masked surgical staff assembled around a recumbent patient in a darkened chiaroscuro room. "Suspense" may be the only photograph by Thorek in which he blends his vocation with his avocation.

Modern Surgery and Anesthesia (1936)

Alfred D. Crimi (1900-94) immigrated to New York City from Sicily in 1910. He returned to Italy in 1929 to study fresco painting. When he came back to New York City, he was an accomplished mural painter and was hired by the WPA for the Harlem Hospital project. Crimi was commissioned to paint five fresco panels for the Medical Board Room, but he completed only one. In his preparation for Modern Surgery and Anesthesia (1936), Crimi spent two weeks at Kings County Hospital, where he watched several surgical procedures. This mural accurately describes a patient undergoing lower abdominal surgery surrounded by the anesthetist, the surgeon, the assistants and all the necessary equipment.
...more about Alfred D. Crimi

Lane Hospital Surgical Amphitheater (1895-1959)

The surgical amphitheater at the Lane Hospital (1882-1959) in San Francisco, California was dedicated on January 2, 1895. The next day the Professor of Surgery at Cooper Medical College and founder of the 200 bed hospital, Dr. Levi Cooper Lane (1828 -1902), performed an operation to repair of the residual deformity of the left cheek caused by a prior cancer surgery.Cooper Medical College in 1882 merged with Stanford University Medical School in 1908.

Brain Surgery Mural (1933)

Between 1932 and 1933 Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera (1886-1957),completed Detroit Industry, the famous and controversial twenty-seven fresco panels on the four walls of an inner court of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The images depict assembly line workers at the Rouge River automotive plant, office workers, airplanes, boats, agriculture and Detroit's other industries - medical, pharmaceutical, and chemical. The small panel on the south wall below the pharmaceutics panel depicts brain surgery. The hands of the surgeon extracting a brain tumor are framed by an X-ray image of a head and human organs. Rivera painted the organs of digestion on one side and the organs of reproduction on the other.

New York Post-Graduate Hospital (1929)

In 1902 Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) became founding members of using techniques they described as photographic pictorialism. They founded the quarterly photography magazine, Camera Work (1903-1917),which published high quality photogravures by the most famous photographers of the time. In later years, Steichen became famous as a commercial and fashion photographer. This photograph on page 244 of Daniel M. Fox and Christopher Lawrence 1988 book, Photographing Medicine: Images and Power in Britain and America since 1840, was photographed by Steichen in 1929 at the New York Post-Graduate Hospital for the J. Walter Thompson Agency (Attributed to collection of Joanna L. Steichen).

The Operation (1929)

Christian Schad (1894-1982) visited the operating rooms in Geneva and recorded his impressions in his painting titled The Operation (1929). Schad combines the precision of a medical illustrator with the shortened perspective and muted earth tones of the avant garde artists of his era. The carefully drawn surgical instruments and glistening red appendix (apparently normal) with adjacent caecum create a sense of realism and authenticity (Sachlichkeit). The surgical team consists of Dr. Haustein, his assistant and two nuns wearing brown rubber gloves. Although the nuns wear sectarian head covers, the scene describes a time before the widespread acceptance of surgical caps and masks. The facial expressions of the surgical team are without emotion. The patient's eyelids are slightly closed as he rests comfortably under what is probably spinal anesthesia.

Appendicitis Operation (1920)

In this colored chalk sketch (1920), An operation for appendicitis at the Military Hospital, Endell Street, London, everyone except the patient is a woman. The Endell Street Military Hospital was founded in 1915 by the women's suffragette movement which was determined to prove that women could run a hospital as well as men. The hospital, which was staffed entirely by women, flourished throughout World War I. In 1919 the hospital closed and Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) was commissioned to do a dramatic portrait showing the Endell Street women in the traditional male role of surgeons. The resultant pastel was criticized because the women surgeons appeared too pensive and too hesitant and the operating room included a non-sterile couch. Spare refused to change his pastel and his work was destroyed. The commission was reassigned to Francis Dodd (1874-1949) who made this sketch.
...Link to the Wellcome Library, U.K.

Clinic of Dr. Jean Louis Fauvre (1920)

Diego Rivera (1886-1957), Mexican muralist and social realist, is perhaps best known for the1930's mural in the lobby of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. That controversial work, featuring communist leaders next to the founding fathers of the United States, was destroyed before it could be completed. Rivera left Mexico in 1907 to study in Barcelona and Paris but returned in 1921. He joined the Mexican muralists who portrayed ethnic Mexican subjects in political contexts. Rivera's art and radical political beliefs attacked the church and clergy. He believed communism would provide social justice. However, in 1927 Rivera's involvement in anti-Soviet politics led to his expulsion from the Mexican Communist Party. His colorful life brought him into contact with most of the great artists of his time, but he is most remembered for his ten year marriage to artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). The charcoal sketch, Clinic of Dr. Jean Louis Fauvre (1920), shows a surgical procedure at the clinic run by the brother of a friend of Rivera.
...more about Diego Rivera

Fountain (1917)

Fountain (1917) by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) won Britain's Turner Prize for the most influential piece of contemporary art in the 20th century. Duchamp was a revolutionary who forever changed the way the world looks are art. The idea behind the art became as important as the physical expression of the idea. He validated the artistic merit of the visual experiences of everyday life. He created a new lexicon of artistic styles with his DADA, found objects, conceptual art, ready-made art. Duchamp formulated the philosophical and visual elements which led to the artistic styles of cubism, surrealism and expressionism.
...Link to Duchamp.org

Max Brödel (1870-1941)

Max Brödel was an art student when he emigrated from Leipzig, Germany to the USA in 1894. He established the first "Department of Art as applied to Medicine" at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1911 which by the time of his retirement in 1939 had graduated 160 medical illustrators. At Hopkins he illustrated the works of world-famous surgeons such as Howard A. Kelly, William S. Halsted, and Harvey Cushing. The illustration is from a 1914 Cushing article showing the translabial transsphenoidal approach to the pituitary gland. This and other drawings by Brödel is part of the Brödel Archives at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
...more about Max Brödel

Self-portrait on the operating table (1902-03)

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), the Norwegian expressionist and son of a physician, famous for his lithograph, Scream (1893), has become the poster child of the political and socially forsaken. His long life and extensive oeuvre overlaps all the major artistic movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Few other artists have captured on canvas the darkness of human emotions variously described as melancholy, despair, misery, isolation and angst. Munch's Self-portrait on the operating table (1902-03) shows his angst and bitterness as he portrays the 1 ½ hour surgical debridement with local anesthesia of his left hand following a self-inflicted pistol wound, the result of a lovers' spat.

Ancon Hospital, Panama (1900)

This photograph shows an operating room in the Ancon Hospital, Panama during the failed French attempt to build the Panama Canal (the US took over in 1904). An estimated 22,000 workers died, many from yellow fever and malaria. In 1928 the hospital was renamed Gorgas Hospital to commemorate U.S. Army Colonel William C. Gorgas, MD (1854-1920) who eradicated yellow fever by applying the research of Cuban physician, Juan Carlos Finlay, MD (1833-1915). This posed photograph was taken about 1900 and is from the Battlefield Surgery 101, exhibit of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C. (NCP 168). The bearded anesthetist with his drug cart is on the left and the mustached surgeon and surgical assistant are on the right with their instrument cart. A nun is at the patient's head with a basin. Wash bowls are readied for the surgeon who is dressed in white shirt, bow tie and cummerbund.

Dr. Pean Operating (1891)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was the artistic soul of Montmartre. His paintings and posters of the Belle Époque portray life at the Moulin Rouge, the cabarets and the brothels. He died at the age of 36 due to the complications of alcoholism and syphilis. At age 12 Henri fractured his left femur, and at 14 his right femur. At maturity he was 4 ½ ft tall with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. Many believe that Henri suffered from the genetic disorder, pycnodysostosis. Three of his cousins were dwarfs with similar skeletal problems; one spent her entire life in a baby carriage. This disease is characterized by mild dwarfism, underdeveloped facial bones, a receding chin, prominent forehead, incomplete closure of the skull, fragile bones, a parrot-like hooked nose, short digits and dental cavities. Henri suffered from painful fractures of his legs and violent toothaches. His nose grew large and his lips became deformed so that he drooled. Not much is known about this portrait calledDr. Pean Operating (1891). We see prominent and reputed dapper Dr. Jules-Emile Pean with an assistant operating inside a patient's mouth. The anterior teeth are visible and the nose is covered by gauzes. There is no apparatus of general anesthesia and treatment appears focused on the molars and posterior pharynx. The image is from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Museum Collections.

Amphitheater (1888)

In 1888 the first George Eastman obtained a patent on the first Kodak camera. The camera was smaller and lighter than previous devices, was made of wood, metal and glass and was loaded with enough rolled film for 100 exposures. After exposing the film, the camera was returned to the Kodak Company in Rochester, New York for processing. These cameras were reloaded with film and returned to the customer together with the prints. Daniel M. Fox and Christopher Lawrence in their 1988 book, Photographing Medicine: Images and Power in Britain and America since 1840, include this photograph on page 133 which could have been made with one of these early Kodak box cameras. It depicts the Abdominal ward amphitheater of the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1888 (Attributed to the Countway Library, Boston)

Ernst von Bergmann (1886)

Ernst von Bergmann (1836-1907), a contemporary of Billroth, introduced the steam sterilization of surgical instruments. He was a surgeon in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) where he gained experience treating head injuries. Bergmann published several surgical works, including a classic treatise on cranial surgery titled, Die Chirurgische Behandlung der Hirnkrankheiten. He was long-term editor of the Zentralblatt für Chirurgie and finished his career as Professor of Surgery at the University of Berlin. The Ernst von Bergmann Clinical Center in Potsdam and the Ernst-von-Bergmann-Kaserne in Munich are named in his honor.

Eye Surgery (1871)

In 1869 Dr. A. de Montmeja, a Parisian ophthalmologist and pioneer in medical photography, edited the first medical journal to contain photographs, Revue Photographique des Hopitaux de Paris. In the same year Dr. Montméja founded the first journal of medical photograph, Revue médico-photographique des hôpitaux de Paris. In 1871 Montmeja joined Parisian ophthalmologist, Edouard Meyer, MD (1838-1902), to publish Traite des operations qui se pratiquent sur l'oeil, the first textbook of ocular surgery illustrated with photographs. From 1873 to 1895 their textbook, Traite pratique des maladies des yeux, had 4 French editions. Since photographs required lengthy exposures and topical anesthesia in the eye had not been developed, their photographs were staged on cadavers. Meyer was further immortalized by a lithograph (1898) by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) titled, "Clemenceau et L'Oculiste", showing Meyer with Georges Clemenceau, MD (1841-1929), premier of France during WWI.

Adalbert Franz Seligmann (1861-1945)

The torch of modern surgery was lit by Christian Albert Theodor Billroth, MD (1829-1894) when he became chief of surgery at Allegemeines Krankenhause in Vienna. Billroth passed his techniques to many including William Stewart Halsted, MD (1852-1922) who in turn trained Harvey Williams Cushing, MD (1869-1939). Billroth reached his surgical fame during a Belle Époque of surgery due in no small part due to the introduction of ether and chloroform general anesthesia in the middle of the 19th century. The image painted in 1890 by Adalbert Franz Seligmann shows Billroth at the age of 60 demonstrating surgery in a brightly lit operating theater to an admiring audience. Billroth's eternal fame did not result from this operation for trigeminal neuralgia but from the complex abdominal surgery on the stomach and small bowel still referred to by his name.
...more about Theodor Billroth

Robert C. Hinckley (1853-1941)

The controversy over the invention of general anesthesia and the first public demonstration of diethyl ether at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846 is matched by the uncertain origin of this recreation of the event by Robert Cutler Hinckley completed in Paris in 1892. A photographer (daguerreotypist), Josiah Hawes, is said to have been so frightened that he was unable to record this momentous event. The First Operation with Ether is painted after the style of Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). The participants have been identified as: Gilbert Abbott, the patient; John Collins Warren, MD, the surgeon; William T. G. Morton, the anesthetist; and Henry J. Bigelow, MD, the junior surgeon. Each one knew that he was a participant in medical history. The inscription on Morton's graveside monument pays tribute to him as the "Inventor and Revealer of Anesthetic Inhalation. BEFORE WHOM In all time Surgery was Agony. BY WHOM Pain in Surgery was averted and annulled. SINCE WHOM Science has control of pain." The painting hangs in the Boston Medical Library.

The Agnew Clinic (1889)

Thomas Eakins (1844-1911) painted The Agnew Clinic fourteen years after his better known The Gross Clinic (1875). The intervening years witness the arrival of white surgical gowns and the further acceptance of ether anesthesia. The painting shows the distinguished surgeon, Dr. David Hayes Agnew, on the eve of his retirement from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. The surgical team is set off from the attentive students by an unseen source of daylight. The surgical team labors as Dr. Agnew elaborates on his surgical technique for cancer of the breast. The Agnew Clinic was commissioned by Dr. Agnew's students who paid Eakins $750. A replica of this painting appears on the diplomas of the medical school. Eakins, born in Philadelphia and trained in Europe, is regarded as one of America's finest painters and photographers. Both The Agnew Clinic and The Gross Clinic may by viewed side by side in the Perlman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
...Link to Eakins exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Gross Clinic (1875)

This realistic paintings by Thomas Eakins (1844-1911) has defined the public perception of the operating theatre for more than a century. A fine arts jury rejected The Gross Clinic for display at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition but the painting was obtained by the Army Medical Museum and displayed in the U.S. Army Building. The painting includes several recognizable individuals including Thomas Eakins and the mother of the patient. The surgical team is dressed in business suits and a member of the surgical team administers chloroform vapors through a soft fabric. The patient lies on his right side as the surgical team labors at the conservative treatment of osteomyelitis of the left femur. The central figure, seventy year old Dr. Samuel D. Gross, holds a scalpel as he elaborates on his surgical technique. Eakins, born in Philadelphia and trained in Europe, is regarded as one of America's finest painters and photographers. The Gross Clinic recently was kept in Philadelphia by matching a purchase price of $68 million. Both The Gross Clinic and The Agnew Clinic may by viewed side by side in the Perlman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
...Link to Eakins exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Battlefield Surgery (1861-1865)

The introductions of general anesthesia and photography occurred within a few years of each other. The camera recorded the new reality of the operating theatre which for the first time included an anesthetist who shared the photographic stage with the surgeon. Open drop chloroform and ether anesthesia (and a mixture of the two) were used during the Civil War (1861-1865). Chloroform was nonflammable and produced anesthesia faster but was associated with a greater incidence of cardiac arrest. This surgical scene shows an army medical wagon with a man supine on a wooden table. The military surgeon appears ready to perform a below the knee amputation of the right leg while the anesthetist (with a hat) applies an anesthetic sponge to the face. The photograph is from the Battlefield Surgery 101exhibit of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ,Washington, D.C. (NCP 1563)

Mathew B. Brady (1823-1896)

Mathew B. Brady stayed mostly in Washington, D.C. and sent his eighteen assistants to photograph the battlefields of the Civil War (1861-1865). Brady initially used the complex and labor-intensive Daguerreotype process but soon replaced it with the Ambrotype and tintype. This photograph (possibly by Peter S. Weaver) attributed to Camp Letterman after the Battle of Gettysburg, PA (1863) re-enacts a surgical amputation of a leg in front of a Union field hospital tent. The photographic technique (wet collodion) required the subjects to be motionless for 15 to 30 seconds. Military surgeons performed more than 30,000 amputations on Union soldiers, and probably an equal number on Confederate soldiers. The frequency of limb amputation and the sale of prepaid embalming certificates remained controversial after the war. Photographs (some stereographic) attempted to show the public the realities of war as distinct from artistic impressions. In spite of his fame, Brady died penniless in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
...more about Mathew B. Brady

Gray's Anatomy (1858)

Gray's Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical Theory (Gray's Anatomy) is the classic English-language human anatomy textbook. This first edition contained 750 pages with 363 illustrations and was published in London in 1858 and the following year in the United States. In 1855 British anatomist Henry Gray (1827-1861) approached a colleague at Saint George's Hospital in London, Henry Vandyke Carter (1831-1897), with his idea of creating an inexpensive anatomy textbook for medical students, physicians and surgeons. They worked together for 20 months, dissecting unclaimed bodies from workhouses and hospital mortuaries permitted by the Anatomy Act of 1832. Gray contracted smallpox and died in 1860 shortly after the publication of their second edition. The book is one of the most popular medical textbooks of all time, made even more famous by the Grey's Anatomy. The 40th edition of Gray's Anatomy was published in September 2008.
...link to the book, "The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy" (2008)

Kamata Keishu (1794-1854)

In 1851 Kamata Keishu (1794-1854) published a surgical treatise called "Geka kihai" which described and illustrated the surgical techniques pioneered by his teacher,the renowned Japanese surgeon, Seishu Hanaoka (1760-1835), who published his own illustrated Surgical Casebook (c.1825). Seishu and his wife are portrayed in a famous Japanese book and movie titled, "The Doctor's Wife".Seishu's operation on his wife was an 19th c. attempt to perform a complex surgical procedure under general anesthesia using Tsusen san, an herbal mixture of mandragora and aconite roots. Keishu's woodcut of an above the knee amputation is remarkable for its dramatic realism and simplicity.

Ether Anesthesia (1846)

The middle of the 19th century witnessed the beginning of photojournalism. Robert Fenton (1819-1869) photographed the Crimean War (1853-1856). Mathew Brady (1823-1896) and his staff photographed the American Civil War (1861-1865). Yet the contemporary standard for recording historical events remained paintings, sketches, engravings and lithographs. William Morton demonstrated ether anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846. Approximately six months later a re-enactment of the event was recorded in a daguerreotype, "Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia" (1847) by Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. The photo shows the original participants, William Morton and John Warren. The commemorative painting, First Operation Under Ether by William Hinckley (1853-1941), was begun 35 years later in 1882 and completed in 1893. This painting and not the earlier photograph, is thought to characterize this event for eternity. Even though the daguerreotype records a re-enactment of surgery, it may qualify as the first photographic image of surgery.

Breast Surgery (1841)

One of six watercolor portraits in a group of works depicting people of Leeds, England with serious illnesses entitled "Gentlefolk of Leeds Afflicted with Disease". Mrs. Prince of Coborough Street is depicted as a woman of about 40 years of age wearing a lace cap, a yellow shawl and a purple dress. Her dress opens below the bosoms revealing the wound where her right breast was surgically removed.
...Link to Wellcome Library, U.K.

Carotid Surgery (1821)

Etching by Charles Bell (1774-1842) showing an "Operation for Carotid Aneurism", Plate XV inBell's Illustrations of the Great Operations of Surgery (Longman, London, 1821).
...link to John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library, University of Iowa Libraries

Dublin Surgery (1817)

Surgical operation to remove a malignant tumor from a man's left breast and armpit in a Dublin drawing room. Watercolor, 1817. (Robert F. Power)
...link to Wellcome Library, U.K.

Forehead Flap (1816)

Joseph Constantine Carpue (1764-1846), British surgeon and anatomist, published a book of plastic facial surgery in 1816. He described two successful operations for reconstructing the noses of two officers of His Majesty's Army who had lost their noses during battle. Carpue used the integument of the forehead in a technique now called a forehead flap. He included historical and physiological remarks on the operation including prior Indian and Italian techniques.
...link to Wellcome Library, U.K.

Kamata Keishu (1804)

In 1851 Kamata Keishu (1794-1854) published a surgical treatise called "Geka kihai" in whichhe described and illustrated the surgical techniques pioneered by his teacher, the renowned Japanese surgeon, Seishu Hanaoka (1760-1835), who published his own illustrated Surgical Casebook (c.1825). Seishu and his wife are portrayed in a famous Japanese book and movie titled, "The Doctor's Wife". Seishu's operation on his wife was an 19th c. attempt to perform a complex surgical procedure under general anesthesia using Tsusen san, an herbal mixture of mandragora and aconite roots. Keishu's 1804 woodcut, The Picture of Breast Cancer, dramatically shows the blood loss during an excision of a cancerous growth from a woman's breast.

David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690)

David Teniers the Younger, the Flemish painter and engraver, was a distinguished member of a family of painters. He studied with his father, David Teniers the Elder (1582-1649), and married the granddaughter of Bruegel (1525-1569). Teniers is known for the depiction of everyday rural events blended with religious and mythological themes. At 41, Teniers moved to Brussels, where he served as court painter, tapestry designer and curator of paintings. His multiple careers brought him wealth and nobility. The colored etching shows a troubling theme of the times, the surgical extraction of stones of madness. Teniers portrays the surgeon as a grotesque single-toothed charlatan and the grimacing patient as a frightened recipient of the therapy. The prominent black hat has unknown significance.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Surgery and biblical folklore come together in this 1636 allegory,Tobias Returns Sight to His Father Staatsgalerie (Stuttgart, Germany). by Rembrandt van Rijn. This theme which appears in several of Rembrandt's etchings, sketches and paintings is from the Book of Tobit (the Apocrypha) and recounts the story of righteous Tobit who becomes blind when bird droppings fall in his eyes. His son, Tobias, aided by the Archangel Raphael, returns from a journey of discovery and restores the sight of his blind father by smearing fish gall on his father's eyes.If we put textual accuracy aside (Tobit's blindness was not caused by cataracts and the restoration of his sight was not by surgery), we remain grateful to Rembrandt for dramatically documenting the technique of cataract surgery called couching, used during Rembrandt's time in 17th century Holland.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Rembrandt van Rijn was 26 years old when he was commissioned to paint The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tuip (1632). Dr. Tulp, a surgeon and anatomist, is performing a public demonstration of the dissection of the forearm of a recently executed criminal. The source of light comes from above and behind the viewer, boldly contrasting a serious Dr. Tulp and the wonder and astonishment of the onlookers.
...link to Mauitshuis National Gallery in The Hague

Johannes Schultheiss (1595-1645)

Johannes Schultheiss (Schultes, Latinized to Scultetus) was one of the best known Italy trained surgeons in Germany in the 17th century. Born at Ulm on the Danube, he was a pupil of Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente and Adriaan van de Spiegel at Padua. HisArmamentarium Chirurgicum... (Arsenal of Surgery,1655) was published 10 years after his death by his nephew, who edited his uncle's notes and added engravings. The book provides a picture of 17th c. surgical practices and instruments, illustrating amputation of the breast, reduction of dislocations, obstetrical delivery by forceps, anal rectal surgery, neurosurgery and dental surgery. He invented many devices including the Scultetus bandage used in abdominal wounds.

Athenae Batavae(1625)

Leiden University was an important stop on the peregrinatio medica, a medical tour to foreign countries by ambitious students. The University was famous for its anatomical theatre constructed in 1591. It was modeled after the theatrum anatomicum in Padua and built in a church designated by the town council for anatomical demonstrations and surgical dissections. Public anatomical dissections took place in winter and lasted for three days, after which the stench and decay made further work impossible. The order of dissection followed the sequence in which the parts of the body would rot. The anatomists worked day and night, lighted by scented candles. Johannes Meursius (van Meurs) (1579-1639), a Dutch classical scholar and antiquary, published Athenae Batavae in 1625 which included this lithograph of the famous theatre

George Bartisch (1535-1607)

George Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia, das ist Augendienst (1583) is regarded as the first systematic work in any surgical specialty. Bartisch lacked the financial resources to attend medical school and instead pursued a career in surgery (then a separate profession). He eventually developed a substantial practice and was appointed oculist to the elector of Saxony in 1588. Tailoring his book to his fellow practitioners, he wrote in German rather than in Latin and included vivid woodcuts. He provided detailed descriptions of eye injuries, diseases, medications, surgery, wound dressing and spectacles.

Barber-Surgeons (1581)

On July 24, 1540 Henry VIII by an Act of Parliament licensed the merger the Worshipful Company of Barbers (men of the short robe) with the Fellowship of Surgeons (men of the long robe). The combined guild was given the right to collect the bodies of four executed prisoners per year for anatomic dissections. In 1745 London surgeons left the Company of Barber-Surgeons to form their own Company, which became the Royal College of Surgeons. commemorative painting from his Anatomical Tables (1581) we see John Banister (1533-1610) delivering the visceral lecture at the Barber-Surgeons' Hall. The two anatomical masters stand beside him, one holding a scalpel, the other a probe. On the opposite side of the table are the two stewards wearing their white protective sleeves. Banister is shown teaching from the octavo second edition of the De re anatomica (1562) by Realdus Colombus (1515-1569).

Caspar Stromayr (c.1530-1580)

Little is known about Caspar Stromayr who was a famous cutter of hernias and a coucher of cataracts. He wrote Practica Copiosa in 1559, a copy of which was discovered in the city library of Lindau (Bavaria) in 1909. Primarily dealing with the surgical repair of hernias and hydroceles, the manuscript includes 186 full page water-color drawings. Stromayr is credited with establishing two principles for repair of inguinal hernias: reinforce the anterior wall of the inguinal canal and tighten the external inguinal ring. This drawing shows a man restrained to an inclined board undergoing a left inguinal herniorrhaphy. Practica Copiosa has an appendix which describes the anatomy, pathology and treatment of cataracts.

Pieter the Elder Bruegel (1525-1569)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a Dutch painter and printmaker, was known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. Some call him "Peasant Bruegel" to distinguish him from other members of the Brueghel dynasty of painters. Within his landscapes Bruegel recounted folk stories, combining several elements of a story within a single painting. Many paintings have a cartoon character which may have concealed complex levels of aphorisms, satire and social commentary. His painting, Cutting Out the Stone of Madness or an Operation on the Head (1568), shows a chaotic and comic asylum where patients are undergoing trepanning procedures to relieve madness.

Andeas Vesalius (1514-1564)

Upon entering the operating room both the patient and the surgeon lose their visual identities. The patient becomes an amalgam of bones, fat, blood and muscles. The surgeon becomes a composite of mask, cap, gloves and gown. Both patient and surgeon dwell in their altered identities until leaving the operating room. Within this visual space, even minor visual cues become important. The posture of the body, the juxtaposition of any real or imaginary objects assist our interpretation. Images which are frightening become humorous. Images which are pedantic become profound. Andeas Vesalius, a Flemish physician and anatomist living in Padua, struggled against popular prejudice to make dissection a recognized part of medical education. He created the De Humani Corporis Fabrica with the assistance of students of Titian from nearby Venice. These woodcut engravings of anatomical dissections joined with panoramas of the Italian countryside have inspired generations of medical illustrators and physicians.
...more about Vesalius

Ambroise Paré (1509–1590)

"Je le pansay, Dieu le quarit" (I dressed him; God healed him) appears on his grave.Instrumenta chyrurgiae et icones anathomicae. Paré had no way of understanding the advancements in materials, surgery and antibiotics needed to make the prosthetic hand a reality.

Giovanni Andrea Della Croce (1509-1575)

Little is known about Giovanni Andrea Della Croce (1509-1575) who published a textbook on surgery, Cirugia Universale e Perfect in 1573. The woodcut depicts a domestic setting including a child, dog and cat with the patient strapped prone on a table as the surgeon appears to drill a hole in the skull.

Walther Hermann Ryff (c.1505-1548)

Walther Hermann Ryff's Grosse Chirurgie>: Traumatologie und Feldchirurgie published in 1545 is largely descriptive rather than analytical and summarizes sixteenth-century surgical instruments, drugs, injuries and treatments. Ryff trained as an apothecary before becoming a municipal physician and surgeon in Strasbourg (Alsace). The print shows a left below the knee amputation and is an example of the colored woodcuts Ryff used for his textbooks on a variety of subjects including botany, distilling, nutrition, mathematics, anatomy, engineering and surgery.

Feldtbuch (1517)

In 1517,also known as Schyl-Hansthe first edition of the Feldbuch der Wundarzney (Field book of the wound-doctor). His book was written for military surgeons and focused on treating combat wounds, extracting bullets and arrows and amputating limbs. The woodcut illustrations, attributed to Hans Wechtlin (c. 1480–1526), were hand colored. These illustrations and the accompanying advice, made the Feldtbuch one of the most popular and surgical works of its time.
...link to Columbia University Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library

Vidus Vidius (c.1500-1569)

Treatments for joint dislocations and simple bone fractures by traction and compression were known in ancient times. In the 10th century a Byzantine physician, Niketas (also spelled Nicetos), transcribed ancient surgical manuscripts which included the commentary by Galen (129 -200) on the treatment of dislocations by Hippocrates (460 BCE -380 BCE). The texts and illustrations were brought to Crete in 1495 and were used by Guido Guidi, known by his Latin name Vidus Vidius, in his book about surgical treatments. Guidi supported the principles established by Hippocrates and Galen and gained fame as a teacher of Vesalius (1514-1564). Chirugia of Vidus Vidius (1544) shows simple and complex methods of reducing fractures and dislocations, including the famous Scamnum traction table attributed to Hippocrates.

Das Buch der Cirurgia (1497)

Das Buch der Cirurgia was the first surgical handbook printed in German (Strassburg, 1497). Hieronymus Brunschwig (c. 1450-1512) wrote the Cirurgia as a manual for general practitioners of surgery and described the treatment of wounds (particularly from gunshots), dislocations, fractures, and amputations. The illustration shows a technique for re-fracturing a leg which has healed in a position which prevents proper ambulation.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

The life and work of Leonardo da Vinci parallel the emergence of European culture from the Dark Ages during the Italian Renaissance. His drawings mark the rebirth of art, science and philosophy. Using pen, chalk and brush, he created scientific illustrations which offered visual answers to mysteries which had confounded scholars for centuries. Leonardo began his anatomical studies of human muscles and bones around 1490. Later he concentrated his energies on embryology and cardiology. This image circa 1505 of a fetus in utero is astonishing in its detail though limited in understanding of function. Later anatomists and physiologists would correct the science in preparation for modern obstetric surgery on the womb. This image is one of 200 anatomic drawings which appear in theRoyal Collection, U.K.

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) Little is known about the meaning of the painting, The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, The Cure of Folly (1475-1480) This image is frequently included in anthologies of medical images even though its inclusion may depend on speculation about the intentions of the enigmatic Bosch. Was Bosch depicting psychosurgery or was he painting an allegory, social criticism or satire? During medieval times, people speculated that stones of madness existed inside the skulls of the mentally ill. The painting shows the extraction of a "keye" (a stone or bulb) from a man's skull by a trephining operation known in Bosch's time. Bosch exchanged the "keye" for the bulb of a flower and placed a second flower on the table. The inscription reads, "Meester snyt die Keye ras - myne name is lubbert das" (Master, cut away the stone – my name is Lubbert Das). Lubbert Das was a comical character in Dutch literature and the flower may be a pun on "tulip head" - meaning mad. The funnel hat and the flower are humorous and hint that the doctor is a charlatan. The woman balancing a book on her head may represent additional folly or melancholia.

The Miracle of Cosmas & Damian (15th c.)

Just as man's dream to build a machine to fly like a bird predates the first airplane by hundreds of years, man's dream to transplant limbs and organs predates by centuries the modern technology of organ transplantation. The legend of the "Miracle of the Black Leg" describes two surgeon brothers, Sts Cosmas and Damian, who lived during the 3rd century in Asia Minor. The legend relates their miraculous removal of the diseased leg of a Caucasian Roman named Justinian and its replacement with the leg of a recently deceased black African (Moor). Because of this miracle, Sts Cosmas and Damian became the patron saints of medicine. The wood panel is a15th Century Gothic Swabian paintings depicting this miracle. The painting is self-explanatory and shows Sts Cosmas and Damian at Justinian's side. In the foreground are his black right leg and his white left leg. The amputated leg lies on the floor.
...more about Sts Cosmas and Damian

The Circumcision of Christ (1440-1450)

From time to time new arguments are offered for the therapeutic benefits of male circumcision, but at its core, circumcision is ritual surgery performed to satisfy religious beliefs. The painting by the Master of the Tucher Altar (Nuremberg) shows this ritual circumcision of infant Christ with three men dressed in robes adorned with Hebrew letters. In contrast to other paintings of the time which show empathy and compassion, this image evokes abhorrence. Long before this painting, Baptism was deemed a replacement for circumcision. Should Baptism include full or partial immersion? Should Baptism, like Jewish circumcision, occur on the infant's eighth day? Did a religious person who was baptized in infancy require a second Baptism (Anabaptism) as an adult? These differing opinions were formalized by Hussites, Lutherans and Protestants but labeled as heresies by the Catholic Church. Mary and Joseph look on with their faces partially hidden. The Chair of Elijah frames the circumcision nearing completion. Surgery, ritual and superstition meet as an evil eye watches from behind the bespectacled reader.

Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu (1385-1468)

Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu lived in central Anatolia and authored in Turkish one of the earliest surgical textbooks, Cerrahiyetul-Haniyye, in 1465. Three original handwritten copies of this book are in existence. Sabuncuoglu, an artist and calligrapher, included color illustrations of his surgical techniques. He is often referred to as the father of pediatric surgery because of his original contributions to the surgical treatments for hydrocephalus, webbed fingers, inguinal hernias, and erroneous circumcisions. His description of the surgical treatment for imperforate anus includes this miniature drawing.
...more about Sabuncuoglu

Guido da Vigevano (c.1280-1349)

Guido of Vigevano was an Italian anatomist, physician and engineer. He was the court physician of the French king, Philip VI, and is given credit for designing a windmill powered wagon (never built). In this illustration the artist combines an idealized impression of the ancient technique of trephination with a surprisingly modern rendering of the human bodies. This illustration is from Guido's 1345 manuscript on human anatomy.

Theodoric de Lucea (1205-1248)

Theodoric de Lucea was born and educated in Italy and then moved to Paris. His Italian surgical technique advocated scrupulous cleanliness and the healing of most surgical wounds by granulation without sutures. The image shows the surgical drainage of a breast abscess.

Roger Frugard of Salerno (c.1140-1195)

Prior to the discovery of general anesthesia, the surgeon was restricted to using his scalpel on the surface of the body and its superficial cavities. A successful surgical procedure had several attributes. The acute pain of the surgery needed to be commensurate with the chronic pain of the disease and the procedure needed to be brief. It was likely that the surgeon required advance payment for the procedure. This late twelfth century Anglo-Norman illuminated manuscript from the British Library is attributed to Practica Chirurgiae by Roger Frugard of Salerno. He illustrates three surgical procedures: surgery for hemorrhoids, nasal polyps and corneal opacity. The surgeons appear in short-robes and the Latin text describes the procedures.
...more about Roger of Salerno

Al-Beruni (973-1051)

This image may be the first illustration of a caesarean section. Called "The Birth of Caesar", it appears in "Al-Asrar-al-Baqiyah-an-al-Qurun-al-Khaliydh" or the Chronological of Ancient Nations (Edinburgh University Library) which was written by the famous Muslim chronicler, Al Beruni, (973-1051). Al-Beruni traveled extensively throughout the Islamic world and India and is famous for reporting that the earth may rotate around the sun. However, scholars point out that this illustration is not evidence that Caesarean sections, post-mortem or live, were performed by medieval physicians.

Surgery for Cataract (c.700 BCE)

This image of uncertain origin (in a style similar to Sabuncuoglu) shows an Arabic attired bearded man operating on a woman's eye performing the ancient cataract operation called couching. Using this technique, a sharp instrument punctures the sclera and displaces the opaque lens from the line of vision into the vitreous humor. The famous Indian surgeon, Sushruta (also spelled Susruta and Sushrutha), referred to as the father of modern surgery, described this and other surgical techniques in his works known as "Sushruta Samhita" which were translated into Arabic by the 8th century CE. The uncertain dates of the life of Sushruta place him sometime between 800 and 500 BCE.
...more about Sushruta

Egyptian Circumcision (c. 2345 BCE)

Many of the earliest recorded surgical procedures would be categorized as urologic. Perhaps the most ancient is the ritual circumcision of the penis. Among Jews this was mandated on the eighth day of life as physical evidence of the covenant with God. Moslems perform the ritual circumcision between the age 5 and 15. The Egyptian practice of circumcision of priests and nobility may predate the Jewish ritual which, according to the Torah, dates back to Abraham. This relief of the 6th Egyptian Dynasty, in the (2345 BCE), referred to as the "Tomb of the Physician." The mural shows the two young men, one with arms restrained, undergoing circumcision.