Surgery in the nineteenth century ADED11810

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: Short Courses
  • Credits: 0
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Summer
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

At the beginning of the nineteenth century surgery was a dangerous business for patients, only to be undergone when there were no other options. It was, however, a time of important surgical innovation. By the end of the century, surgeons were prepared to try the unthinkable, such as open-heart surgery - and, to the horror of a hitherto all-male profession, surgery performed by women . This course will chart the surgical developments through this period, and the scientific discoveries that led to them. It will introduce the surgeons themselves, and the way they were seen in popular culture. Were they complicit in the actions of body snatchers, and could they be accused of 'experimenting' on the poor? We will examine the ethical quandaries posed by these advancements and consider the way they fed into the politics of the times, in particular the 1832 Anatomy Act. Taken in conjunction with the New Poor Law that followed it, this was seen as a victimisation of the destitute, with the poor being made to suffer even in death.


Block 4

Weeks 6-10

Wednesdays, 2 hours per week for 5 weeks, 13.00-15.00

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses






Course Aims

This course aims to:

■  Introduce students to the ways in which surgery changed over the nineteenth century and the scientific developments behind these changes.

■  Interrogate the ethics and politics that underlie these changes, and the public perceptions and mistrust both of surgery and the surgeons themselves.


Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Identify the differences in approach to surgery at the beginning and end of the nineteenth century.

■ Appreciate the application of the scientific method and rationalism that informed these developments.

■ Describe the ethical and political framework in which these developments took place.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits