The first volume of the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery, and the Collateral Branches of Science, published in 1812, gives a sense of the constraints faced by surgeons, and the mettle required of patients, in the era before anesthesia and antisepsis. In the April issue for that year, John Collins Warren, surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital and son of one of the founders of Harvard Medical School, published a case report describing a new approach to the treatment of cataracts.1 Until that time, the prevalent method of cataract treatment was “couching,” a procedure that involved inserting a curved needle into the orbit and using it to push the clouded lens back and out of the line of sight.2 Warren’s patient had undergone six such attempts without lasting success and was now blind. Warren undertook a more radical and invasive procedure — actual removal of the left cataract. He described the operation, performed before the students of Harvard Medical School.
Click the pic to read this fascinating history.