Slicing into Surgery #468

April 06, 2018

Surgery isn't generally a good time these days. There's pain and danger. But surgery today is nothing to the surgery of the past, when desperate patients had to sit, awake and with no painkillers, through the sawing-off of their own limbs. If they made it through that, they frequently died of infections from the dirty hands and instruments of their own doctors. What changed, and who changed it? This week we talk about the transformation of the butchering art with Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, author of "The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's quest to transform the grisly world of Victorian medicine". And we'll speak with Dr. Nils Hansson, who will lead us through the history of anesthesia.


  • Lindsey Ftizharris
  • Nils Hansson

Guest Bios

Lindsey Ftizharris

Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris is a bestselling author with a Ph.D. in the History of Science and Medicine from the University of Oxford. Her debut book, The Butchering Art, won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science and has been translated into twenty languages. Dr. Fitzharris writes regularly for a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, The Guardian, The Lancet, and New Scientist. Her television series on the Smithsonian Channel, The Curious Life and Death of…, explores some of the most mysterious deaths in history.

Nils Hansson

Nils Hansson is a medical historian at the Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf. He specializes in the study of those who have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and or Medicine, as well as the runners-up, or as he calls them, the "highly-qualified losers" of science, including the scientists who developed the practice of anesthesia.

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