I am one who loves medical history and Genius On The Edge – the bizarre double life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted, was a captivating read. For those who don’t know, Dr. Halsted is known as the “Father of Surgery” and practiced medicine after the civil war. Written by author physician, Dr. Gerald Imber, the medical facts are sound and the story is fascinating for any reader.
We learn that in 1850 there was no anesthesia, no knowledge of germs, no IVs or blood transfusions and no more than 200 surgeries a year were performed because the outcomes were usually disastrous. The patient who needed emergency surgery died of overwhelming infection, gangrene or shock from blood loss.
Dr. William Halsted, like all physicians of that time, was born into wealth and privilege. He began his training in 1875, ten years after Louis Pasteur showed sour milk was caused by a bacteria and when Robert Koch was able to cultivate the anthrax bacillus. At a time when surgeons were not washing their hands and were operating in dirty clothes, the concept of antisepsis was a critical advance that Dr. Halsted seized for his own training. Medical Schools were for-profit trade schools and no laboratory or clinical work was required but like many wealthy young physicians, he traveled to Europe to study the newest techniques. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*