Timeline of surgery

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This is a timeline of surgery, attempting to describe important events in the development of the field.

Sample questions

The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:

  • Who were some key people that lead the development of surgery?
  • What locations across the globe are key scenarios in the development of surgery, and how these main locations changed over time?
  • What were important devices that facilitated the practice of surgery?
  • Which parts of the human body were first subject of surgical intervention, and how this order of intervention extended across the body over time?
  • What are important events in the development of robotics in surgery?

Big picture

Time period Development summary
Ancient times The history of dental and surgical procedures reaches back to the Neolithic and pre-Classical ages.[1] Trephining is practized as early as the Neolithic period, for reasons that remain a mystery. It is the earliest form of surgery, and involves cutting a small round hole in the head. In Egypt, surgeons practice trephining in an effort to cure migraines - the idea is to ‘let out’ the illness that was causing the headaches. Ancient Greeks, which benefit from new materials, use iron to make surgical instruments. Greek surgeons would be able to set broken bones, bleed patients, perform amputations and drain the lungs of anyone unfortunate enough to catch pneumonia. Roman surgeons use surgical instruments similar to those employed by the Greeks. Turpentine and pitch are used as antiseptics, but internal surgery is still considered too risky. The Romans perform amputations, trephining and eye surgery. [2]
Middle ages In the European mid–14th century, the Church allows some dissections of human bodies at medical schools but the ideas of Galen continue to dominate.[3] Inthe middle ages, bleeding is still a common practice, yet the lack of effective antiseptics and anaesthetics continue to limit the scope of surgery. Some simple anaesthetics such as herbs and alcohol are in use, but they are often so strong that they would kill the patient while the surgeon is still sharpening his or her knife. Surgery is considered a lesser profession, and is open to women, who cannot become physicians at the time. Surgeons do not attend university to study, but are apprenticed to practising surgeons to learn through observation. Many surgeons are in fact barbers, who combine small surgical operations with performing bloodletting and tooth extraction. Barber-surgeons would travel around the country. They would take up residence in a castle, treat the occupants and also care for any soldiers who become injured in the many small battles undertaken between rival factions.[2][1]
1500s–1600s Surgeons experiment with new methods. Cauterization of wounds is still popular and helps prevent infection, but some surgeons reject these established methods in favour of more innovative approaches. Women continue to train as surgeons, often treating the poor.[2]
1700s Surgical training moves to the universities, banning women from surgical practice.[2][1] In the century, John Hunter successfully combines dissection and careful study of anatomy with surgical practice. Hunter's work leads to a scientific professionalism.[4]
1800s Early in the century, the most important talents a surgeon could possess are speed and accuracy. Surgeons are famed for their speed, particularly in amputation. As there is still no effective anaesthetic, they have to perform their procedures quickly and are limited to external tumours, amputation and trephining. Around the mid–century, the development of new anaesthetic gases changed the experience of surgery for patient and surgeon. With the patient rendered unconscious, surgery would became more invasive, giving the surgeon the opportunity to be both slower and more methodical.[2] Surgery as it is known today would not truly begin until late in the century, and even then, infection would be common and outcomes would be poor.[5]
1900s By the beginning of the century, surgery is usually less painful and risky, but many patients continue to die from internal infection and blood loss. The development of safe blood transfusion and antibiotics such as penicillin in the early 1940s allow surgery become a safer practice.[2] Asepsis gains prominence in the century. Through methods such as boiling, using autoclaves, and chemical antiseptics, sterile operating environments could be achieved. Physicians begin wearing white coats, and clean linens dress beds and operating tables.[1] Coronary artery surgery becomes the revolution in the 1970s and expands rapidly.[6] Towards the late 1980s, the minimally invasive surgery (MIS) becomes famous and revolutionize the concept by inserting the instruments in body by making small incisions. In the 1990s, the laparoscopic revolution happens and many surgical procedures change from traditionally done open surgeries to minimal access procedures.[7]

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Country/Geographical location
6500 BC Medical development A rudimentary surgery called trepanning, which involves drilling a hole in the skull, may have been practiced in France.[5][3] France
4300 BC Medical development Trepanation is known among the Bronze Age Harappan people of the Indus Valley Civilization.[8] India, Pakistan
4000 BC Medical development Trepanation is evident in Jericho in Palestine.[8] Palestinian Territories
c.2613–2494 BC Medical development A jaw found in an Egyptian Fourth Dynasty tomb shows the marks of an operation to drain a pus-filled abscess under the first molar.[9] Egypt
1600 BC Medical development The Edwin Smith Papyrus from Egypt is an early treatise on surgery describing 48 cases of injuries, fractures, wounds, dislocations, and tumors, with treatment and prognosis including closing wounds with sutures, using honey and moldy bread as antiseptics, stopping bleeding with raw meat, and immobilization for head and spinal cord injuries, reserving magic as a last resort. This medical text contains detailed anatomical observations but shows no understanding of organ functions, along with the earliest known reference to breast cancer.[10] Egypt
1500 BC Medical development 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.[3] Egypt
1250 BC Asklepios and his sons Podaleirius and Machaon are reported by Homer as battlefield surgeons. Homer also reports arrowheads cut out; styptics; administration of sedatives and bandaging of wounds with wool.[9] Greece
c.335–280 BC Medical development Greek physician Herophilos performs dissections of human bodies in public. Herophilos is sometimes called the Father of Anatomy.[3] Greece
c.300 BC Medical development Ancient Greek surgeons bath wounds with wine to prevent them becoming infected.[3] Greece
c.130–210 CE Medical development Prominent Greek physician in the Roman empire Galen lives. Many of his ideas are wrong but they dominate surgery for centuries.[3]
476 CE 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.[3]
c.900 CE Medical development Islamic surgeon and physician Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) is highly influential around this time. Al-Zahrawi's books, focusing on orthopedics, military surgery, and ear, nose, and throat surgery, would further influence Islamic and Western medical practitioners.[2][1]
208 Medical development (drug) Chinese physician Hua Tuo begins using wine and cannabis as an anesthetic during surgery.[10] China
1162 Policy The Council of Tours bans the practice of surgery for breast cancer after it regards it as "barbarous". France
1180 Publication Salernitan surgeon Rogerius publishes Practica Chirurgiae ("The Practice of Surgery").[10] Italy
1214 Medical development Medieval surgeon Hugh of Lucca discovers that wine disinfects wounds.[10]
1275 Medical development Italian surgeon William of Saliceto breaks the tradition with Galen who claims that pus formation is bad for wounds and for the patient; and promotes a surgical knife over cauterization.[10] Italy
1308 Organization The Worshipful Company of Barbers in London is first mentioned.[10] United Kingdom
1452–1519 Scientific development Leonardo Da Vinci lives. He dissects some human bodies and makes accurate drawings of them.[3] Italy
1453 The Fall of Constantinople causes many scholars to flee to Europe bringing medical-surgical manuscripts with them.[10] Turkey
1507 Medical development Italian anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi of Bologna carries out the first authenticated vaginal hysterectomy.[11] Italy
1536 Medical development French barber surgeon Ambrose Paré treats wounds with a mixture of egg yolk, rose oil and turpentine rather than hot oil. Paré discovers that cold poultices are better than hot oil.[3][10] France
1540 Organization In London, a Fellowship of Surgeons is united with the formation of the Barber–Surgeons Company.[12] These barber-surgeons would perform tooth extractions and blood letting. Physicians are considered an entirely different profession, treating illness with medications.[5]
1543 Publication Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius writes the ground-breaking De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, which would become the most comprehensive anatomy text at the time and the basis for 200 years of anatomical study. Vesalius is the first to suggest the hands-on approach of human dissection by physicians and surgeons. His study of human anatomy succeeds to correct ideas held from Greek and Roman misconceptions based on dissection of animals.[1][3][10]
mid–1500s Medical development French barber surgeon Ambroise Paré popularizes the use of ligatures to control bleeding after amputation. He also uses bandages to cover wounds.[2][1] France
1655 Organization The surgical community of St–Côme in Paris consolidates with the union of barber–surgeons.[12] France
1667 Medical development The first fully-documented human blood transfusion is administered by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys, an eminent physician to King Louis XIV of France.[13] France
1689 Medical development The first successful separation on record of cojoined twins (both survive) is performed.[14]
1721 Medical development English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brings the Ottoman practice of inoculation to England using live smallpox virus.[10] United Kingdom
1728–1793 Scientific development Scottish surgeon John Hunter, known as the Father of Modern Surgery, lives.[15] Hunter is considered one of the greatest anatomists of all time and founder of experimental pathology in England.[15] United Kingdom
1735 Medical development French born surgeon in England Claudius Amyand performs the first successful appendectomy.[3][10] United Kingdom
1765 Publication English surgeon Percivall Pott publishes his famous book Fractures and Dislocations. Along with John Hunter, Percivall Pott is considered one of the two outstanding British surgical teachers of the eighteenth century.[15] United Kingdom
1776 Scottish surgeon John Hunter pioneers artificial insemination.[10]
1792 French surgeon Dominique Jean Larrey creates an ambulance service for wounded men.[3] France
1796 Medical development English physician Edward Jenner pioneers smallpox inoculation with cowpox virus.[10]
1800 Organization The Royal College of Surgeons of England is founded.[10] United Kingdom
c.1800 Scientific development French surgeon Bernard Peyrilhe becomes the first to experimentally transmit cancer to an animal by injecting breast cancer cells.[10] France
1805 Medical development British surgeon Astley Cooper pioneers ligation of arteries.[10] United Kingdom
1812 Publication The first volume of the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, and the Collateral Branches of Science is published, giving a sense of the constraints faced by surgeons, and the mettle required of patients, in the era before anesthesia and antisepsis.[16]
1818 Medical development British obstetrician James Blundell performs the first successful transfusion of human blood.[13][5]
1842 Medical development American surgeon Crawford Long makes early use of ether as anesthetic.[3] United States
1843 Medical development In Manchester, England, Charles Clay performs the first recorded abdominal hysterectomy.[11][5] United Kingdom
1844 Medical development American dentist Horace Wells pioneers nitrous oxide for anesthesia.[10] United States
1847 Medical development Scottish obstetrician James Young Simpson makes early use of chloroform as anesthetic.[3] United Kingdom
1851 Medical development Dutch army surgeon Antonius Mathijsen first uses plaster of paris to fixate broken bones in a plaster cast.[10] Netherlands
1852 Medical development American physician J. Marion Sims successfully repairs a vesicovaginal fistula.[10] United States
1860 Medical development A physician separates his cojoined twin daughters, but only one survives.[14]
1865–1867 Medical development British surgeon Joseph Lister, who believes microorganisms could cause disease, develops his method of “listerism.” Lister recommended antisepsis, or the removal of bacteria from instruments, wounds, and the air above the patient. His process consists of using carbolic acid as a sterilizing agent, but it is cumbersome in practice and many surgeons who do not accept germ theory at the time refuse it.[1] In 1867, Lister publishes Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery, extolling the virtues of cleanliness in surgery. The mortality rate for surgical patients would further immediately fall.[5][3]
1879 Medical development (brain) Scottish surgeon William Macewen performs the first successful non-primary (trephined) brain tumor removal, pioneering brain surgery.[10] United Kingdom
1880 Medical development German surgeon Ludwig Rehn performs the first thyroidectomy.[10] Germany
1883 Medical development Scottish surgeon Lawson Tait removes the fallopian tube of a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy.[3] United Kingdom
1884 Medical development (drug) Austrian ophtalmologist Karl Koller first uses cocaine as a local anesthetic for eye surgery.[10] Austria
1884 Medical development The first successful removal of a brain tumor is reported. Alexander Hughes Bennett and Rickman J. Godlee use the concepts of cerebral localization developed by John Hughlings Jackson to successfully remove a glioma.[16][17][18][19]
1885 Medical development The first successful appendectomy is performed, in Iowa.[5] United States
1890 Medical development Rubber gloves are first used in surgery.[20][21][22][3]
1890 Medical development German surgeon Themistocles Gluck pioneers arthroplasty with a knee replacement and hip replacement using ivory.[10]
1890s Medical development Widespread use of chemical agents to minimize germs is made during the decade. Carbolic acid is put on incisions to minimize germs and decrease infection rates.[5]
1891 Medical development Saint Louis City Hospital superintendent Henry Dalton performs the first successful pericardial sac repair operation.[10] United States
1893 Medical development African American Daniel Hale Williams at Provident Hospital in Chicago performs the first repair of a cardiac wound.[23][24][25] United States
1895 Scientific development German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen discovers x-rays.[5][3] Germany
1895 Medical development (heart) Norwegian surgeon Axel Cappelen performs the first successful cardiac surgery.[10] Norway
1896 Medical development (heart) German surgeon Ludwig Rehn performs the first successful cardiac surgery without any complications.[5][3] Germany
c.1900 Medical development The Cargile membrane is introduced into surgery.[5]
c.1900 Medical development (brain) American neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing begins pioneering brain surgery.[5]
1901 Medical development German surgeon Georg Kelling performs the first Laparoscopic surgery on dogs.[5] Germany
1901 Scientific development Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner distinguishes the main {blood groups by discovering the basic A-B-AB-O blood types.[10]
1903 Scientific development Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven invents the first practical electrocardiogram.[10] Netherlands
1905 Medical development Synthetic alkaloid Novocaine, similar to cocaine but with less toxic effects, is developed by A Einhorn in the Hoechst laboratories in Darmstadt. Novocaine is introduced as a less toxic anesthetic and allows more extensive surgeries.[26][27][28][29][3] Germany
1905 Medical development Austrian ophthalmologist Eduard Zirm performs the first successful human cornea transplant.[30][5][31]
1907 Medical development Austrian surgeon Hermann Schloffer becomes the first to successfully remove a pituitary tumor, at the University of Innsbruck.[10] Austria
1910 Medical development Swedish internist Hans Christian Jacobaeus performs the first laparoscopic surgery on humans.[10] Sweden
1912 Award French surgeon Alexis Carrell is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for inventing vascular surgeryby developing the first successful techniques for suturing blood vessels. Carrell is also the inventor of the technique for intravenous therapy.[4]
1913 Medical development (artery) The first successful aortic embolectomy by direct aortotomy is reported.[32]
1914 Medical development (transfusion) Belgian doctor Albert Hustin conducts the first successful non-direct blood transfusion.[3][33][34][35][36]
1916 Medical development Austrian surgeon Hermann Schloffer performs the first splenectomy operation.[10] Austria
1917 Medical development New Zealand-born otolaryngologist Harold Gillies pioneers modern plastic surgery for wounded British World War I soldiers.[37][38][39][5][10]
1925 Medical development (heart) English surgeon Henry Souttar performs the first open heart surgery.[10]
1928 Medical development (drug) Scottish physician Alexander Fleming observes penicillin, the first antibiotic to be discovered.[40] United Kingdom
1929 Medical development Werner Forssmann, a 25-year-old surgical intern in Eberswalde, Germany, publishes his report on successful catheterization of the heart in a German medical journal.[16][10] Germany
1930 Medical development The first sex change operation is performed when German gynecologist Kurt Warnekros manages to remove testicles from Lile Elbe, a German who was born intersexed (possessing a reproductive system not consistent with males or females).[41] Germany
1937 Organization The first blood bank opens, helping make more surgery possible by treating bleeding during the procedure.[5]
1940 Medical development The first metal hip replacement surgery is performed.[5][10]
1949 Medical development Colombian professor José Ignacio Barraquer introduces the idea of refractive cornea surgery to permanently correct a person's vision. Over time, the invention of the laser would allow Barraquer's theory become possible, because the cornea could be operated on with fewer complications and with higher precision.[42][43] Colombia
1950 Medical development (kidney) Dr Richard H Lawler performs the first kidney transplant.[44][45][5][3]
1952 Medical development (heart) The first "open-heart" operation, closure of an atrial septal defect, is performed by F. John Lewis at the University of Minnesota, using hypotermia and inflow occlusion.[46][10] United States
1953 Medical development (heart) American surgeon John Heysham Gibbon performs the first open-heart surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass, also closing an atrial septal defect.[46] United States
1953 (August) Medical development (artery) The first carotid endarterectomy is reported.[47]
1954 Medical development (kidney) American plastic surgeon Joseph Murray performs the first successful kidney transplant, at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.[48] The transplant is performed between identical twins, with the donor donating one of his/her kidneys to a single transplant recipient.[49][4] United States
1955 Technology British cardiologist Aubrey Leatham engineers and implements the first artificial cardiac pacemaker.[50] United Kingdom
1956 Award German physician Werner Forssmann is awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for inventing cardiac catheterization.[4]
1960 Medical development (hip) Burmese surgeon San Baw performs the first hip replacement with an ivory prosthesis.[51][3]
1961 Medical development (ear) American otologist William F. House, in collaboration with neurosurgeon Dr James Doyle and engineer Jack Urban, develops the cochlear implant, a practical and reliable means to restore hearing through electrical stimulation.[52][53][54]
1961 Medical development (artery) American surgeon Thomas J. Fogarty introduces the Fogarty embolectomy catheter.[55][32]
1962 Medical development The first hip replacement surgery via Low Frictional Torque Arthroplasty (LFA) by Sir John Charnley.
1963 Medical development (liver) The first orthopedic liver transplantation is performed by Thomas Starzl in Denver. However, the attempt is unsuccessful.[56][57] United States
1964 Technology Lasers are first used for eye surgery.[58][59][60][61][3]
1966 Medical development (pancreas) Kelly and Lillihei at the University of Minnesota perform the first successful pancreas transplant.[62][63][64][65][66][5] United States
1967 Medical development (liver) American physician Thomas Starzl performs the first successful liver transplant.[67][5] United States
1967 Medical development (heart) South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard carries out the world's first heart transplant.[68][5][69] South Africa
1967 Medical development (heart) Argentine surgeon René Favaloro at Cleveland clinic performs the first successful coronary artery bypass surgery.[70][71][72][73] United States
1969 Medical development (heart, lung) American surgeon Denton Cooley performs the first heart and lung transplant.[74]
1972 Technology The CT scan is perfected, producing three-dimensional images of internal organs.[75]
1974 Medical development (elbow) The first Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also called Tommy John surgery, is performed.[76] United States
1974 Medical development The first endoscopic sphincterotomy (ES) is performed.[77] Japan
1974 Medical development (liposuction) Modern liposuction starts when two Italian gynecologists, Dr. Giorgio Fischer, and his son Dr. Giorgio Fischer, Jr. discover a way to internally cut away at fat tissue within the body using an electric-powered rotating scalpel inserted through small incisions. The hollow surgical instrument called cannula allows to create tunnels between major blood vessels of the body while sucking out fat.[78][79]
1975 Medical development The first organ surgery is performed using laparoscopic, or minimally invasive technique.[5]
1977 Medical development Balloon angioplasty for unclogging diseased arteries is developed.[75]
1978 Medical development The first "test-tube" baby is born.[5]
1980 Technology The lithotripter for breaking up kidney stones is developed.[75]
1980 Technology British gynecologist Patrick Steptoe becomes the first surgeon to use the laparoscopie to visualize the inside of the abdomen to perform surgical procedures using other instruments inserted through other small incisions.[4]
1981 Medical development (heart, lung) The first successful human heart-lung transplantation is performed by a Stanford University group.[64] United States
1982 Technology The Jarvik-7 artificial heart is first implanted as a destination therapy.[80][5] United States
1983 Technology Robot-assisted surgery begins with Arthrobot in Vancouver.
1984 Medical development (heart) American infant Baby Fae survives 21 days after being transplanted with the heart of a baboon.[81]
1984 Medical development Kurt Semm is the first to describe a technique for laparoscopic assistance in vaginal hysterectomy, laying the foundation for all endoscopic procedures.[11] Germany
1985 Technology The first documented robotic surgery is carried out.[82][7][83][84]
1985 Technology Positron emission tomography is invented.
1985 Medical development John Clark at Johns Hopkins performs the first radical hysterectomy.[11] United States
1987 Technology Surgical robots are introduced with the first laparoscopic surgery, a cholecystectomy.[82]
1987 (March 17) Medical development French physician Phillipe Mouret performs the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) in Lyon, France.[4][77] France
1987 Technology A video camera is attached to the laparoscope, allowing the surgeon and the assistant to stand erect, and for everyone to see the operation and participate in it.[4]
1988 Technology Researchers at the Imperial College London develop the PROBOT system, with the goal to build a robot that would have a small enough working environment to allow safe operations within the human body.[83][85] United Kingdom
1994 Technology The automated endoscopic system for optimal positioning (AESOP) is developed. The device allows the surgeon to operate the camera using a hand or foot switch instead of relying on an assistant.[83] United States
1998 Medical development The first Stem Cell Therapy.
1998 Medical development The first successful hand transplant is performed by an international surgical team assembled in Lyon, France.[86][87][88][89][5] France
2000 Technology The Da Vinci Surgical System is introduced as an advanced master-slave system, with endowrist instruments.[83] United States
2001 Technology The first human implantation of the first self-contained, total artificial heart, AbioCor, is implanted into a patient at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.[90] United States
2001 Technology The ZEUS robotic surgical system allows the first telerobotic surgery, with the surgeon in New York and the patient in France.[91][92][85] United States, France
2005 Medical development (face) The first parcial face transplant surgery is performed in Lyon, France.[93][3] France
2007 Medical development The first natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery is performed.[94][5]
2008 Medical development (face) Connie Culp has the first near-total full face transplant in the United States, performed at The Cleveland Clinic.[5]
2008 Technology French neurosurgeons use laser in keyhole surgery to treat brain cancer.[95][96][97][98][3] France
2010 Medical development (face) The world's first full-face transplant is performed at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital in Spain.[99][100][101][93][5] Spain
2011 Medical development (leg) The first leg transplant is performed at the Hospital La Fe in Valencia, Spain.[3][102][103][104][105] Spain
2012 Medical development (womb) The first womb transplant is performed by surgeons at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.[3][106][107][108][109][110] Sweden
2013 Medical development (arm) The first double arm transplant is performed by surgeons at Johns Hopkins University.[111][112] United States
2013 Technology The first virtual surgery using Google Glass, called Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality (VIPAAR), is carried out by surgeons at the University of Alabama.[113][114] United States
2013 Medical development (nose) The first growing of a replacement nose on a patient's forehead is performed by surgeons at Imperial College in Fuzhou, China.[115][116] China
2014 (December) Medical development (penis) South African urologist André van der Merwe and his team at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town perform the first successful penile transplant.[117][118] South Africa
2015 Medical development (skull, scalp) The first skull and scalp transplant by surgeons at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.[119][120] United States
2016 Medical development (liver) Team at Johns Hopkins Hospital completes the first ever HIV-to-HIV liver and kidney transplants from deceased donors.[121][122] United States

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

The initial version of the timeline was written by User:Sebastian.

Funding information for this timeline is available.

What the timeline is still missing

History of surgery, [1], [2]

Timeline update strategy

See also

External links


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