Three hundred years ago in 1718 ‘the Great’ William Cheselden joined St Thomas’ Hospital. Working initially as an Assistant Surgeon, from this time he honed his skills to improve the general surgical treatment of patients. He introduced innovative fast but accurate surgical procedures for lithotomy (the surgical removal of bladder stones); his patients had a 92% chance of survival; he radically undertook iridectomy, inserting an artificial iris to repair damaged eyes, as well as risky procedures on prisoners to restore their hearing.
All of his work was done with immense surgical skill but without the option of either anaesthesia or antiseptic surgical techniques.
Importantly, always the avid surgical teacher, Cheselden demanded that the Hospital build new operating theatres so that medical students would witness and so learn from new and updated surgical techniques. Always believing anatomy to be at the heart of surgery, Cheselden even bypassed the law and was caught and officially reprimanded for dissecting a corpse in the front room of his home.
Learn more about why Cheselden wanted to join St Thomas’ Hospital: Who were his patients and how his surgical skills saved lives?
What had egg whites to do with his ideas for bone setting and Why did he wear a red hat for dissecting?
Set in the later Old Operating Theatre of 1822, during the talk there will also be the chance to handle some of the simple but effective original lithotomy tools that were used by Hospital lithotomists.
This is a joint talk by the Museum’s Curatorial team, Karen Howell and Kirsty Chilto, to celebrate one of St Thomas’ Hospital’s most famous surgeons, Mr William Cheselden (1688-1752).
….“I’ll do what Mead and Cheselden advise,
To keep these limbs, and preserve these eyes.”
- Poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) - perhaps Cheselden’s most famous patient
[Ref: Nathan Bailey, 1759 The New Universal Dictionary].
[Pope - ‘The second-most frequently writer in the Oxford Dictionary
of Quotations after Shakespeare’.]
Doors will open at 6:30 pm.