The Foundations of Modern Surgery I: The Coming of Anaesthesia

Henry Bashford traces the development of a key aspect of modern medicine.

Surgery, it has been said, apart from what might be termed First Aid, represents the failure of Medicine—a view recently emphasized both by the chemists and by certain schools of psycho-therapy. Given a profounder knowledge of the human body and its potential antagonists, they claim that amputations, excisions, surgical mutilations of all sorts, however skilfully performed, should become unnecessary and the greater part of Surgery obsolete; and this is at least an arguable proposition. Within the last fifty years, the discovery by Paul Ehrlich of neo-salvarsan as an effective remedy for syphilis and the enormous impetus thereby given to chemotherapy in general and particularly to the injection of remedial substances direct into the bloodstream: the advent of the sulphonamide group of drugs: the yet later advent, as therapeutic agents, of antibiotics such as penicillin— the use in the human body of benign living organisms to combat hostile living organisms— have prevented a host of developments that once called for surgical measures.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.