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

Lindsey Fitzharris received her doctorate in the history of science, medicine and technology from the University of Oxford. In 2010, she was granted a postdoctoral research fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. She is the author and creator of the popular website The Chirurgeon's Apprentice and the writer and presenter of the YouTube series "Under The Knife", which takes a humorous look at our medical past. She has written for The Guardian, The Lancet, New Scientist, Penthouse, The Huffington Post and Medium, and has appeared on PBS, Channel 4, BBC, and National Geographic. Her debut book "The Butchering Art" follows the surgeon Joseph Lister on his quest to transform the brutal and bloody world of Victorian surgery.

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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