Eighteenth Century textbooks of operative surgery: Who wrote them, who read them and why?
Dr Ursula MulcahyZoom
The is research is intended as the basis for a study of eighteenth-century operative surgery. The books concerned are known to be notoriously inaccurate but studying them does provide a snapshot of the development of operative surgery in Britain. At the beginning of the century, there were 2 main types of books---those which had been in print for centuries and books written for and by military surgeons. Later, training in operative surgery became established in London, along with Anatomy schools. I argue that it is their authors' reliance on anatomy for its explanatory value which explains their inaccuracies. This raises the question of who would buy such books? I argue that the most likely reason for their purchase was to provide prospective examination candidates with facts they could memorize. Finally, at the end of the century, surgeons working outside of London published books to advertise their skills. As they contain numerical analyses of results, their greater accuracy could be said to mark the beginning of statistical analysis.