The Hidden History of the Surgical Revolution with Richard Barnett

Carlyle's House

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Thursday 2 June 2016
19:00 - 20:15
Something A Little Different, Theatre/Arts, Walks & Tours
Over 18

After Dark with the National Trust

Anaesthesia and antisepsis revolutionised nineteenth-century surgery, turning a gory trade into a clinical profession and saving countless lives. Well into the 1840s, surgeons dressed in their street clothes set to work on patients who remained awake throughout their ordeal. Operations were fast, in the hope of minimising pain, shock and blood loss, and mortality rates were high. Within two generations operating theatres had come to resemble laboratories, with surgeons and nurses clad in sterile gowns and working in near-silence. But there’s much more to this story than heroic surgeons and brilliant inventions. Does what surgeons know matter more than what they do? Has abstract learning driven refinements in operative technique, or have original ideas about the body emerged when a culture’s attitude to health and sickness began to change? And what did all this mean for the silent partners in surgical history – patients?

In this illustrated talk Richard Barnett, author of Crucial Interventions, will reveal the hidden history of the surgical revolution – and its connections with our own experiences under the knife.

Dr Richard Barnett

Richard Barnett is a writer, teacher and broadcaster on the history of science and medicine. He teaches the history of disease and the history of evolution on the Pembroke-Kings Programme in Cambridge, and in 2011 he received one of the first Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowships. His first book, Medical London: City of Diseases: City of Cures, was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and his The Sick Rose was described by Will Self in the Guardian as 'superbly lucid and erudite'. His latest book is Crucial Interventions: An Illustrated Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgery. He has made many appearances on UK & US TV & radio, and you can find him online at

Tickets £15 including a glass of prosecco

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Carlyle's House
Carlyle's House 24 Cheyne Row, London, SW3 5HL


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