Cornhill Magazine,  1 (1860), 499–504.

Under Chloroform

[Henry Thompson]




Periodicals, Surgery, Medical Practitioners, Science Communication, Professionalization, Specialization, Expertise, Skill, Education, Statistics, Miracle, Scientific Naturalism, History of Science, Hospitals

People mentioned:

Hippocrates of Cos , Aulus C Celsus , Leonardo Botallo , Ambroise Paré , Richard Wiseman , William Harvey

    After complaining that the reporting of surgery in the popular press is based on 'Scraps of hearsay [...] eagerly gathered up by the penny-a-liner', the article also condemns 'an over-prying public' that 'peeps within the pages of the medical press, hoping to unravel some of the mysteries of professional craft' and 'gets nothing but error for its pains'. Insists that the 'technicalities which medical men must necessarily employ when writing for each other, are instructive only to the initiated'. (499) The statistics of illness and accidents compiled by Francis G P Neison and Henry T Buckle, however, make it clear that 'everybody has a direct practical concern' with the procedures of modern surgery. Chloroform has been a 'blessed boon', but in an earlier age it might have been used to perform 'miracles', and 'dogmas might [...] have been made divine and true by its influence'. Also asserts, 'Happy was it that those great powers, the magic of chemical and electrical discovery, have been brought to light in a time when they can be used mainly to enlighten and bless, and not to darken and oppress mankind'. (500) The rest of the article relates the history of amputation techniques over the last four hundred years, and contrasts them with a modern operation performed in a teaching hospital and employing chloroform which is so efficient that the patient, when returned to consciousness, does not 'realize the happy truth' that the amputation has already taken place (504).

See also:

Ray ed. 1946: 4, 177

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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