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January 27, 2017

How To Slice a Human Body: 16 Terrifying Vintage Illustrations Showing the Horror of Surgery From Victorian Era

Aren’t you glad you were born in time for scientists and inventors to perfect the use of anesthesia? Could you imagine having to go through any of these early surgical procedures without it?

The nineteenth century saw major advances in the practice of surgery. In 1750, the anatomist John Hunter described it as “a humiliating spectacle of the futility of science”; yet, over the next 150 years the feared, practical men of medicine benefited from a revolution in scientific progress and the increased availability of instructional textbooks. Anesthesia and antisepsis were introduced. Newly established medical schools improved surgeons’ understanding of the human body.

Crucial Interventions follows this evolution, drawing from magnificent examples of rare surgical textbooks from the mid-nineteenth century. Graphic and sometimes unnerving yet beautifully rendered, these fascinating illustration.

1. Surgery to correct strabismus (abnormal alignment of the eyes) which involved the division of the internal muscles of the eyeball so the eye would point in the right direction.

2. Removal (or “resection”) of the lower jaw.

3. Compression of arteries in the arm and leg to reduce blood loss during surgery.

4. A painting depicting one of the first British operations carried out with anaesthesia by pioneering Scottish surgeon Robert Liston. He operated with a knife gripped between his teeth, and could amputate a leg in under three minutes.

5. Two kinds of caesarian section.

6. Surgical saws, knives and shears for operations on bone.

7. Anatomy of the armpit, and the ligature (clamping by string to stop the blood flow) of a blood vessel near it.

8. Amputation of various toes.

9. Sites for ligature of arteries in the lower arm and elbow joint.

10. Surgery for cancer of the tongue.

11. Ligature of an artery in the inguinal region, using sutures and a suture hook, with compression of the abdomen to reduce aortic blood flow.

12. Cross section of the human brain.

13. Musculature and blood supply of the wrist and hand.

14. Dissection showing the aorta and the major arteries of the thorax (the bit inside the ribcage) and abdomen.

15. Anatomy of the large intestine, front and back.

16. Dissection of the thorax, showing the relative positions of the lungs, heart, and primary blood vessels.


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