Famous 19th Century Surgeons

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Surgeons, including William Stewart Halsted, Daniel Hale Williams, Joseph Lister, Mary Edwards Walker and Harvey Cushing.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 John Snow

John Snow
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 15, 1813
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, United Kingdom
Died: June 16, 1858

Best known as the father of modern epidemiology, British doctor John Snow revolutionized medical science with his study of London’s Broad Street cholera outbreak of 1854. His research contributed to the development of London’s sewage and water systems and led to the reduction in cholera cases.

 2 Robert Liston

Robert Liston
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: October 28, 1794
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, Scotland
Died: December 7, 1847

Scottish surgeon Robert Liston worked in an era when anesthesia wasn’t invented. He could complete amputations within minutes, thus saving the lives of many when the speed of the surgery made the difference between life and death. Later, he became the first European surgeon to operate under anesthesia.

 3 Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: April 5, 1827
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Upton House, West Ham, England
Died: February 10, 1912

British surgeon Joseph Lister was a pioneer of antiseptic medicine usage and made a huge contribution to the development of preventive medicine for bacterial infection. His achievements have been honored by many, such as the makers of Listerine antiseptic and mouthwash, who named their product after him.

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 4 J. Marion Sims

J. Marion Sims
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: January 25, 1813
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster County, South Carolina, United States
Died: November 13, 1883

Known as The Father of Modern Gynaecology, J. Marion Sims is remembered for developing a surgical method to deal with vesicovaginal fistula, a childbirth-related complication. However, since his experiments were conducted on Black slave-women, without anesthesia, they were later deemed unethical. He had also headed the American Gynecological Society.

 5 Mary Edwards Walker

Mary Edwards Walker
Famous As: Surgeon, Feminist, Activist
Birthdate: November 26, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Oswego
Died: February 21, 1919

Mary Edwards Walker, or Dr. Mary Walker, was the only female surgeon who served injured soldiers during the American Civil War. A dress reform supporter, she believed women should value comfort more than tradition when it came to clothes. She was also the first and only Medal of Honor winner.

 6 William Stewart Halsted

William Stewart Halsted
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: September 23, 1852
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City
Died: September 7, 1922

William Stewart Halsted was the man behind the first American surgical school at the Johns Hopkins University. The master surgeon made a number of contributions to medical science, including the introduction of mastectomy and aseptic surgical procedures. He often injected cocaine into his body to develop anesthesia.

 7 Wilder Penfield

Wilder Penfield
Famous As: Surgeon, Neuroscientist, Neurosurgeon, University teacher, Neurologist
Birthdate: January 26, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spokane
Died: April 5, 1976

Neuroscientist Wilder Penfield redefined medical science with his innovative way of treating epilepsy patients through surgery. He would note down his patients’ responses when they would be conscious under local anesthesia. He also founded the Montreal Neurological Institute, but was unable to cure his sister’s brain cancer.

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 8 Norman Bethune

Norman Bethune
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 4, 1890
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Gravenhurst, Canada
Died: November 12, 1939

Canadian thoracic surgeon Norman Bethune served as an army physician for the Canadian Army during World War I. He revolutionized medical science by introducing the concept of mobile blood-transfusion. A Communist Party of Canada member, he later served the Chinese army against Japan, becoming a revered name in China.

 9 Daniel Hale Williams

Daniel Hale Williams
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: January 18, 1856
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: August 4, 1931

Daniel Hale Williams was a general surgeon known for performing the first documented, successful pericardium surgery in the US in 1893. Born to interracial parents, he faced numerous struggles in his journey to become a physician. He later founded the first non-segregated hospital in the United States, Chicago's Provident Hospital. He also founded a nursing school for African Americans. 

 10 Walter Jackson Freeman II

Walter Jackson Freeman II
Famous As: American physician
Birthdate: November 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 31, 1972

American neurologist Walter Jackson Freeman II is remembered for co-developing the technique of prefrontal lobotomy as a treatment for mental ailments, along with neurosurgeon James W. Watts. Though many of his patients died due to the treatment, he is still considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery.

 11 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Famous As: Mayor of Aldeburgh
Birthdate: June 9, 1836
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whitechapel
Died: December 17, 1917

The first female doctor and surgeon of Britain, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was initially denied admission to medical schools because of her gender and had thus started studying privately. Soon after joining the Marylebone Dispensary as an attendant, she contributed to the formation of the New Hospital for Women.

 12 William Chester Minor

William Chester Minor
Famous As: Former Surgeon known for Contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary
Birthdate: June 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sri Lanka
Died: March 26, 1920

William Chester Minor was an army surgeon and lexicographical researcher. He studied at Yale Medical School and earned a medical degree with a specialization in comparative anatomy. He then became an army surgeon. He was later committed to a London psychiatric hospital for many years as he suffered from paranoid delusions. He became a lexicographical researcher while incarcerated.  

 13 John McCrae

John McCrae
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 30, 1872
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Died: January 28, 1918

Best known for his iconic war poems such as In Flanders Fields, Canadian poet John McCrae was also an army physician. He was the first Canadian to serve as a consulting surgeon for the British Army and had earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army.

 14 Alexis Carrel

Alexis Carrel
Famous As: Surgeon, Biologist
Birthdate: June 28, 1873
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, Rhône, France
Died: November 5, 1944
Nobel Prize-winning French biologist and surgeon Alexis Carrel is remembered for developing a method to suture blood vessels with minimum stitches, to repair them. He also successfully kept tissues alive outside the body for 30 years, in an innovative tissue culture experiment, and worked on organ transplantation.

 15 Ephraim McDowell

Ephraim McDowell
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: November 11, 1771
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Virginia, United States
Died: June 25, 1830

Considered the founder of operative gynecology, Ephraim McDowell was also the first person to perfect lithotomy, a surgical technique for removing stones obstructing urinary bladder. He came to limelight when he successfully removed a 20-pound tumor from Jane Todd Crawford’s ovary, later performing twelve more ovariotomies, out of which seven were successful, thus demonstrating the viability of elective abdominal surgery.

 16 Harold Gillies

Harold Gillies
Famous As: Physician, Plastic surgeon
Birthdate: June 17, 1882
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dunedin
Died: September 10, 1960

 17 William Beaumont

William Beaumont
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 21, 1785
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lebanon, Connecticut, United States
Died: April 25, 1853

Nineteenth-century U.S. Army surgeon William Beaumont pioneered the study of human digestion. While treating a person named Alexis St. Martin, who had been near-fatally shot in the stomach, Beaumont discovered a lot of gastric processes and later published them as a treatise on the physiology of digestion.

 18 William James Mayo

William James Mayo
Famous As: Physician and Surgeon
Birthdate: June 29, 1861
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Le Sueur
Died: July 28, 1939

Physician and surgeon William James Mayo is best-known as a principal co-founder of the non-profit American academic medical center Mayo Clinic. Son of British-American medical-doctor and chemist William Worrall Mayo, William James and his brother, Charles Horace Mayo, joined the sole-proprietorship medical practice of their father, which developed under them and other doctors intothe Mayo Clinic.

 19 Charles Horace Mayo

Charles Horace Mayo
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: July 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rochester
Died: May 26, 1939

Part of the Mayo medical family of the U.S., Charles Horace Mayo had established the Mayo Clinic with his brother William James Mayo and others. He specialized in varied medical fields, mastering neurosurgery, goitre surgery, cataract operations, and other procedures. He later served the U.S. Army surgical team.

 20 Howard Atwood Kelly

Howard Atwood Kelly
Famous As: Surgeon, Writer, Gynaecologist, University teacher
Birthdate: February 20, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Camden
Died: January 12, 1943

American obstetrician/gynaecologist and professor Howard Atwood Kelly was among the four outstanding physicians, known as the Big Four, along with William Welch, William Halsted and William Osler, who became founding professors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Kelly established gynaecology as a specialty, and developed a systematic approach to gynaecological medicine and surgery as well as new surgical techniques and devices.

 21 Charles Bell

Charles Bell
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 12, 1774
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: April 28, 1842

Charles Bell was a Scottish surgeon, physiologist, anatomist, and neurologist. He was also an artist and philosophical theologian. He discovered the difference between sensory nerves and motor nerves in the spinal cord. He is also known for describing Bell's palsy. He played a key role in the creation of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. 

 22 James McHenry

James McHenry
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 16, 1753
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ballymena, Ireland
Died: May 3, 1816

Scotch-Irish American military-surgeon and politician James McHenry, who served as the 3rd United States Secretary of War, is noted as a signer of the United States Constitution from Maryland. He was elected a delegate to Maryland State Convention of 1788. He was instrumental in reorganizing the United States Army into four regiments and established the United States Department of the Navy.

 23 Dean Mahomed

Dean Mahomed
Famous As: Traveller, surgeon, entrepreneur, and one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World
Birthdate: April 30, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Patna, Bihar, India
Died: February 24, 1851

 24 Serge Voronoff

Serge Voronoff
Famous As: Surgeon, Immunologist, Gynaecologist
Birthdate: July 10, 1866
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Voronezh
Died: September 3, 1951

Russian-French surgeon Serge Voronoff, or the Monkey Gland Man, stunned everyone by implanting monkey testicles in his patients to cure impotence. He had apparently also injected himself with dog and guinea pig testicle extracts. Unfortunately, the scientific community dismissed his claims as simply the result of placebo effect.

 25 Crawford Long

Crawford Long
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Danielsville, Georgia, United States
Died: June 16, 1878

American surgeon and pharmacist Crawford Long is best-known as the inventor of modern anaesthetics in the West. Long is believed to be the first to apply inhaled sulfuric ether as a general anaesthesia. He applied it for the first time in 1842 for removing a tumour from a patient’s neck and went on to perform several other surgeries using ether anaesthetic.

 26 Earle Page

Earle Page
Famous As: Prime minister of Australia
Birthdate: August 8, 1880
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Grafton, Australia
Died: December 20, 1961

Country Party leader Earle Page was not just Australia’s minister of health and commerce but had also been its prime minister for 19 days, after the death of prime minister Joseph Lyons. His efforts to bring about a comprehensive national health plan was appreciated by all. He was also knighted.

 27 William C. Gorgas

William C. Gorgas
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: October 3, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States
Died: July 3, 1920

U.S. Army physician William C. Gorgas was in charge of the sanitation of Panama and successfully eradicated both malaria and yellow fever from the zone, thus paving the way for the construction of the Panama Canal. He was later made part of the Hall of Fame For Great Americans.

 28 Dominique Jean Larrey

Dominique Jean Larrey
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: July 8, 1766
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Beaudéan, France
Died: July 25, 1842

 29 Francis Davis Millet

Francis Davis Millet
Famous As: Painter, sculptor
Birthdate: November 3, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 15, 1912

 30 William Williams Keen

William Williams Keen
Famous As: Doctor
Birthdate: January 19, 1837
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: June 7, 1932

William Williams Keen pioneered brain surgery in the U.S. Working on neurological injuries as an army surgeon, he discovered many previously unknown neurological ailments. He was also part of a secret operation on a yacht to remove a tumor from the upper jaw of U.S. president Grover Cleveland.

 31 Gideon Mantell

Gideon Mantell
Famous As: Obstetrician
Birthdate: February 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lewes, England
Died: November 10, 1852

 32 Oliver St. John Gogarty

Oliver St. John Gogarty
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 17, 1878
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Parnell Square West, Dublin, Ireland
Died: September 22, 1957

 33 Heinrich Anton de Bary

Heinrich Anton de Bary
Famous As: Botanist
Birthdate: January 26, 1831
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Died: January 19, 1888

German surgeon and botanist Heinrich Anton de Bary is regarded as the pioneer of plant pathology and mycology. Apart from teaching botany, he chalked the life cycles of many fungi and also coined the term symbiosis to explain the mutually beneficial co-existence of many orgnanisms, such as fungi and algae.

 34 James Paget

James Paget
Famous As: Founder of scientific medical pathology.
Birthdate: January 11, 1814
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Great Yarmouth, England
Died: December 30, 1899

 35 Guillaume, Baron Dupuytren

Guillaume, Baron Dupuytren
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: October 5, 1777
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pierre-Buffière, France
Died: February 8, 1835

 36 R. Austin Freeman

R. Austin Freeman
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 11, 1862
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, England
Died: September 28, 1943

 37 Nikolay Pirogov

Nikolay Pirogov
Famous As: Physician, Scientist
Birthdate: November 25, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: December 5, 1881
Known for his pioneering use of field surgery, physician Nikolay Pirogov was the first to use anaesthesia in a field operation. A pioneer in the use of ether, too, he started his medical education at 14 and later taught surgery as a professor. He also reduced limp amputations significantly with his techniques.

 38 Jonathan Hutchinson

Jonathan Hutchinson
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: July 23, 1828
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Selby, Yorkshire, England
Died: June 13, 1913

 39 Louis T. Wright

Louis T. Wright
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: July 23, 1891
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: LaGrange
Died: October 8, 1952

Born to former slaves, Louis T. Wright grew up to earn his medical degree from Harvard and ended up being the first Black surgical staff of Harlem Hospital, a non-segregated hospital in New York. His stint in the U.S. Army had caused him a lifelong respiratory ailment.

 40 George Washington Crile

George Washington Crile
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 11, 1864
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ohio, United States
Died: January 7, 1943

American surgeon George Washington Crile, who is noted for co-founding the non-profit American academic medical center called the Cleveland Clinic, is credited formally as the first surgeon who performed the first surgery using a direct blood transfusion. He made significant contributions to the study of blood pressure, described the radical neck dissection and designed a small hemostatic forceps.

 41 Victor Horsley

Victor Horsley
Famous As: British surgeon
Birthdate: April 14, 1857
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: July 16, 1916

British neurosurgeon Victor Horsley created history when he conducted the first spinal tumor operation. His research also included studies on thyroid and rabies. He was also knighted for his achievements but died of a heat stroke while serving the British army’s medical team during World War I.

 42 Astley Cooper

Astley Cooper
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: August 23, 1768
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooke, England
Died: February 12, 1841

 43 Ernst von Bergmann

Ernst von Bergmann
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: December 16, 1836
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: March 25, 1907

Ernst von Bergmann was a Baltic German surgeon, known for being the first physician to introduce heat sterilization of surgical instruments. He is credited to be a pioneer of aseptic surgery. He also served as a medical officer in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War. He wrote a classic treatise on head injuries, among other medical works. 

 44 Robert James Graves

Robert James Graves
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 27, 1796
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: March 20, 1853

 45 Goldsworthy Gurney

Goldsworthy Gurney
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: February 14, 1793
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Treator, Padstow, England
Died: February 28, 1875

 46 John Benjamin Murphy

John Benjamin Murphy
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: December 21, 1857
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Appleton, Wisconsin, United States
Died: August 11, 1916

American physician and abdominal-surgeon John Benjamin Murphy, who served as President of Chicago Medical Society and the American Medical Association, is best-remembered as an early advocate of intervention in appendicitis appendectomy. Several innovative procedures in areas like thoracic-surgery, neurosurgery, gynaecology, and orthopaedics were performed and elucidated by him. He is also noted for eponyms like Murphy drip and Murphy’s punch.

 47 John Richardson

John Richardson
Famous As: Surgeon and Explorer
Birthdate: November 5, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dumfries, Scotland
Died: June 5, 1865

Apart from being a naval surgeon, John Richardson also made a named for himself as an explorer of the Canadian Arctic coast. He was also a talented author of natural history. His accurate surveys eventually got him knighted. Various species of reptiles and mammals have been named in his honor.

 48 Ernest Amory Codman

Ernest Amory Codman
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: December 30, 1869
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 23, 1940

American surgeon Ernest Amory Codman is most noted for establishing an end results system based medical care and is considered widely as the founder of what is presently known as outcomes management in patient care. Besides the study of medical outcomes, Codman made contributions in the areas of radiology, orthopaedic oncology, anaesthesiology, shoulder surgery and duodenal ulcer surgery.   

 49 Wilfred Trotter

Wilfred Trotter
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 3, 1872
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Coleford, Gloucestershire, England
Died: November 25, 1939

 50 Nicolas Leblanc

Nicolas Leblanc
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: December 6, 1742
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Issoudun, France
Died: January 16, 1806

Known as the inventor of the now-obsolete Leblanc process, Nicolas Leblanc was employed as a physician when the French Academy of Sciences offered a prize for developing a process, which would turn common salt into soda ash. Using sea salt and sulfuric acid as the raw materials, Nicolas Leblanc soon developed a technique that was widely followed during the 19th century.