New Frontiers of Surgery


This exhibition showcases the transformation of surgical procedures since the mid-1800s, largely thanks to the introduction of general anaesthetic and antiseptics.
The first public operation on a patient made unconscious with anaesthetic took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1842. However, survival rates didn’t improve until the 1870s, when Joseph Lister invented a spray that killed germs by covering both the patient and the surgeon in a fine mist of carbolic acid.
Death rates from infection then plummeted and surgeons could attempt more ambitious operations.
These advances paved the way for modern procedures such as organ transplants, which have transformed many people’s lives. Today, surgeons can transplant a wide range of organs including the cornea, liver, heart, heart valves, pancreas, kidneys, skin and bone marrow.
Other innovations include laser and keyhole surgery, which reduce the risks and complications of surgery even further, and microsurgery that allows delicate operations to be performed using microscopes. For example, the thread used in cornea transplants is finer than a human hair.
You’ll be amazed at how far we’ve come since the days when unfortunate patients had to endure medical procedures without the benefit of anaesthetics or antiseptics