Though we have been conducting examinations upon the human body since the time of the ancient Romans, surgeries were only recorded during the Medieval period. One such example is the image of the Wound Man which depicts the various injuries with which a person may be inflicted whether in war, an accident, or disease.
That corporeal fragility and the lengths to which intrepid (and otherwise) surgeons throughout human history have gone to address it via novel, absurd, and often downright terrifying surgical interventions is the subject of Dutch surgeon Arnold van der Laar’s new book, Under the Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations.
The Wound Man appears therein, alongside a colorful cast of characters hovering on and around the operating table. We see superstar surgeon Robert Liston at work, and learn about the medical troubles of Queen Victoria, Harry Houdini, Vladimir Lenin, a smattering of popes, and the Sun King himself, Louis XIV, who became the proud (and very public) recipient of France’s first successful anal fistula removal.
Van der Laar outlines numerous bloody miracles and missteps while also taking care to explain the science and methodology behind the operations themselves; he is a surgeon, after all, and attention to detail is kind of their thing nowadays.
(Image credit: Digitale Sammlungen)