Famous 19th Century Surgeons

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Surgeons, including William Stewart Halsted, Daniel Hale Williams, Joseph Lister, Mary Edwards Walker and Harvey Cushing.
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 1 
John Snow
(Physician)
John Snow
6
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
(Surgeon)
Robert Liston
6
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 
J. Marion Sims
4
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.

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 4 
Joseph Lister
(British Medical Scientist and a Pioneer in the Field of Antiseptic Medicine and Surgery)
Joseph Lister
6
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.

 5 
Mary Edwards Walker
(Surgeon, Feminist, Activist)
Mary Edwards Walker
4
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.

William Stewart Halsted
4
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 
Norman Bethune
(Physician)
Norman Bethune
5
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.

 8 
Wilder Penfield
(Surgeon, Neuroscientist, Neurosurgeon, University teacher, Neurologist)
Wilder Penfield
6
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.

 9 
Daniel Hale Williams
3
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 
John McCrae
(Poet and Soldier Best Known as the Author of War Memorial Poem 'In Flanders Fields')
John McCrae
8
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.

 11 
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
(Mayor of Aldeburgh)
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
5
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
(Former Surgeon known for Contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary)
William Chester Minor
10
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 
Alexis Carrel
(Surgeon, Biologist)
Alexis Carrel
5
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.
 14 
Harold Gillies
(Physician, Plastic surgeon)
Harold Gillies
5
Birthdate: June 17, 1882
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dunedin
Died: September 10, 1960

Harold Gillies was a New Zealand otolaryngologist who is considered the father of modern plastic surgery. He is also credited with pioneering sex reassignment surgery; he performed one of the earliest sex reassignment surgeries on Michael Dillon in 1946. Harold Gillies was also an amateur golfer and played in the annual Amateur Championship from 1906 to 1931.

 15 
Ephraim McDowell
(American Physician and Pioneer Surgeon Known for First Successful Ovariotomy)
Ephraim McDowell
5
Birthdate: November 11, 1771
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rockbridge County, 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 
William James Mayo
(Physician and Surgeon)
William James Mayo
2
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.

 17 
Charles Horace Mayo
2
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.

 18 
William Beaumont
5
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.

 19 
Howard Atwood Kelly
(Surgeon, Writer, Gynaecologist, University teacher)
Howard Atwood Kelly
2
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.

 20 
Charles Bell
(Scottish Surgeon Known for Discovering the Difference Between Sensory Nerves and Motor Nerves in the Spinal Cord)
Charles Bell
2
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. 

 21 
Dean Mahomed
(Traveller, surgeon, entrepreneur, and one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World)
Dean Mahomed
0
Birthdate: 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Patna, Bihar, India
Died: February 24, 1851
 22 
Serge Voronoff
(Surgeon, Immunologist, Gynaecologist)
Serge Voronoff
2
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.

 23 
James McHenry
(Surgeon)
James McHenry
2
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.

 24 
Crawford Long
(American Surgeon and Pharmacist Best Known for His First Use of Inhaled 'Sulfuric Ether' as an Anesthetic)
Crawford Long
2
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.

 25 
Dominique Jean Larrey
2
Birthdate: July 8, 1766
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Beaudéan, France
Died: July 25, 1842
 26 
William C. Gorgas
2
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.

 27 
Francis Davis Millet
(Painter, sculptor)
Francis Davis Millet
0
Birthdate: November 3, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 15, 1912
 28 
William Williams Keen
2
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.

 29 
Gideon Mantell
(Obstetrician)
Gideon Mantell
2
Birthdate: February 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lewes, England
Died: November 10, 1852
Oliver St. John Gogarty
2
Birthdate: August 17, 1878
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Parnell Square West, Dublin, Ireland
Died: September 22, 1957
 31 
Heinrich Anton de Bary
(German Surgeon, Botanist, Microbiologist, and Mycologist Known for Demonstrating Sexual Life Cycle of Fungi)
Heinrich Anton de Bary
2
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.

 32 
James Paget
(Founder of scientific medical pathology.)
James Paget
2
Birthdate: January 11, 1814
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Great Yarmouth, England
Died: December 30, 1899
 33 
George Crabbe
(British Poet, Surgeon and Clergyman Best Known for His Early Use of the Realistic Narrative Form)
George Crabbe
2
Birthdate: December 24, 1754
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England
Died: February 3, 1832

George Crabbe was an English surgeon, poet, and clergyman. He began his career as a doctor's apprentice in the 1770s and later become a surgeon. After a few years, he pursued a living as a poet and also served as a clergyman in various capacities. He wrote poetry mainly in the form of heroic couplets. He was also a coleopterist. 

Guillaume, Baron Dupuytren
2
Birthdate: October 5, 1777
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pierre-Buffière, France
Died: February 8, 1835
 35 
R. Austin Freeman
2
Birthdate: April 11, 1862
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, England
Died: September 28, 1943
 36 
Nikolay Pirogov
(Physician, Scientist)
Nikolay Pirogov
0
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.
 37 
Louis T. Wright
2
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.

 38 
Victor Horsley
(British surgeon)
Victor Horsley
2
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.

George Washington Crile
2
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.

 40 
Astley Cooper
(Surgeon)
Astley Cooper
2
Birthdate: August 23, 1768
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Brooke, England
Died: February 12, 1841
 41 
Ernst von Bergmann
1
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. 

 42 
Jonathan Hutchinson
2
Birthdate: July 23, 1828
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Selby, Yorkshire, England
Died: June 13, 1913
 43 
Goldsworthy Gurney
1
Birthdate: February 14, 1793
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Treator, Padstow, England
Died: February 28, 1875
 44 
Robert James Graves
2
Birthdate: March 27, 1796
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: March 20, 1853
 45 
John Benjamin Murphy
1
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.

 46 
Ernest Amory Codman
1
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.   

 47 
John Richardson
(Surgeon and Explorer)
John Richardson
1
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 
Wilfred Trotter
1
Birthdate: November 3, 1872
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Coleford, Gloucestershire, England
Died: November 25, 1939
 49 
Godfrey Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern
(Rhodesian Physician and Politician)
Godfrey Huggins, 1st Viscount Malvern
1
Birthdate: July 6, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bexley, England
Died: May 8, 1971
 50 
John Shaw Billings
(American Surgeon and Librarian)
John Shaw Billings
1
Birthdate: April 12, 1838
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Allensville, Indiana, United States
Died: March 11, 1913

A physician by vocation, John Shaw Billings played an important role in eradicating yellow fever and served as the first director of New York Public Library. However, he is best remembered for developing the Surgeon General’s Office Library, not only expanding its volumes, but also redesigning catalogues with author and subject indexes, creating a separate indexing system for medical periodicals.