Early Surgical Tools

C-sections were, again, the surgery of very last resort and rarely performed until the mid-to-late eighteenth century. While they were not common, this does not mean that the procedure did not take up good-sized sections of obstetrics texts. In fact, the more difficult and horrific the procedure...the more often you'll get to read about it in early manuals.

You have here an inventory of the tools required for a caesarean section in the very early eighteenth century. This is taken from Pierre Dionis's
Course on Surgical Operations [Cours d'Operation de Chirurgie], published in 1708.

Dionis (pronounced Dee-oh-nees) was an innovator in surgical instruction and ushered in a new emphasis on formal training of surgeons. He began his professional life as a surgical and anatomical demonstrator at the Jardin du Roi--now the Paris Jardin des Plantes. Open-air dissections were performed at the gardens and usually drew a large crowd of spectators.

Dionis later became a court surgeon. He documents the work he did at court and describes the demonstrations that he performed at the request of Queen Maria Theresa (Louis XIV's wife). One that sticks in my mind is the dissection that he did following the death of a pregnant woman. The Queen requested that he give her a lesson on the anatomy of the womb and specifically demanded that he bring in specimens from the newly dissected corpse.

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  1. The sight of those instruments sends chills down my spine... I didn't know Queen Marie-Therese was interested in anatomy.

  2. Morales_Knight: thanks for your message. Still learning my way around Twitter. Must have hit the wrong button. sorry!

  3. What a fascinating post, thank you! As someone who has spent 30+ years in OR nursing this is near and dear to my heart, odd as that may seem. :)


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