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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Surgeon

Surgeon Quotes (43 quotes)


Epitaph of John Hunter
The Royal College of Surgeons of England have placed this tablet over the grave of Hunter, to record their admiration of his genius as a gifted interpreter of the Divine Power and Wisdom at work in the Laws of Organic Life, and their grateful veneration for his services to mankind as the Founder of Scientific Surgery.
Epitaph
Memorial brass in the floor of north aisle of Westminster Abbey, placed when Hunter's remains were reinterred there (28 Mar 1859). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), Vol. 6, 568.
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In a 1852 letter, Nightingale records the opinion of a young surgeon:
The account he gives of nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines.
Letter to Miss H. Bonham Carter (8 Jan 1852), quoted in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (1914), Vol. 1, 116.
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A great surgeon performs operations for stone by a single method; later he makes a statistical summary of deaths and recoveries, and he concludes from these statistics that the mortality law for this operation is two out of five. Well, I say that this ratio means literally nothing scientifically and gives us no certainty in performing the next operation; for we do not know whether the next case will be among the recoveries or the deaths. What really should be done, instead of gathering facts empirically, is to study them more accurately, each in its special determinism. We must study cases of death with great care and try to discover in them the cause of mortal accidents so as to master the cause and avoid the accidents.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 137-138. (Note that Bernard overlooks how the statistical method can be useful: a surgeon announcing a mortality rate of 40% invites comparison. A surgeon with worse outcomes should adopt this method. If a surgeon has a better results, that method should be adopted.)
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A physician is someone who knows everything and does nothing.
A surgeon is someone who does everything and knows nothing.
A psychiatrist is someone who knows nothing and does nothing.
A pathologist is someone who knows everything and does everything too late.
Anonymous
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A surgeon should give as little pain as possible while he is treating the patient, and no pain at all when he charges his fee.
Anonymous
‘FRCS’ in The Times, quoted by Reginald Pound in Harley Street (1967).
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As he approached the place where a meeting of doctors was being held, he saw some elegant limousines and remarked, “The surgeons have arrived.” Then he saw some cheaper cars and said, “The physicians are here, too.” ... And when he saw a row of overshoes inside, under the hat rack, he is reported to have remarked, “Ah, I see there are laboratory men here.”
The Way of an Investigator (1945, 1965), 207.
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At a given instant everything the surgeon knows suddenly becomes important to the solution of the problem. You can't do it an hour later, or tomorrow. Nor can you go to the library and look it up.
Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)
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Excessive and prolonged use of tobacco, especially cigarettes, seems to be an important factor in the induction of bronchiogenic carcinoma. Among 605 men with bronchiogenic carcinoma, other than adenocarcinoma, 96.5 per cent were moderately heavy to chain smokers for many years, compared with 73.7 per cent among the general male hospital population without cancer. Among the cancer group 51.2 per cent were excessive or chain smokers compared to 19.1 per cent in the general hospital group without cancer.
[Co-author with Evarts Ambrose Graham]
In Ernst Wynder and Evarts Ambrose Graham, 'Tobacco Smoking as a Possible Etiologic Factor in Bronchiogenic Carcinoma', The Journal of the American Medical Association (1950), 143, 336. Graham was an American surgeon (1883-1957).
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From earliest memory I wanted to be a surgeon, possibly influenced by the qualities of our family doctor who cared for our childhood ailments.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 555.
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I don’t dawdle. I'm a surgeon. I make an incision, do what needs to be done and sew up the wound. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
[On writing.]
Quoted in Thomas Lask, 'Publishing:Surgeon and Incisive Writer', New York Times (28 Sep 1979), C24.
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I have made many mistakes myself; in learning the anatomy of the eye I dare say, I have spoiled a hatfull; the best surgeon, like the best general, is he who makes the fewest mistakes.
Quoted in James Anthony Froude, John Tulloch and Thomas Carlyle, Fraser's Magazine (Nov 1862), 66, 574.
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I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give any woman the instrument to procure abortion. … I will not cut a person who is suffering with stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of such work.
From 'The Oath', as translated by Francis Adams in The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1849), Vol. 2, 780.
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If the love of surgery is a proof of a person’s being adapted for it, then certainly I am fitted to he a surgeon; for thou can’st hardly conceive what a high degree of enjoyment I am from day to day experiencing in this bloody and butchering department of the healing art. I am more and more delighted with my profession.
Letter to his father (1853). In John Vaughan, 'Lord Lister', The Living Age (1918), 297, 361. Reprinted from The Fortnightly Review (1918), 109, 417- .
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If we want an answer from nature, we must put our questions in acts, not words, and the acts may take us to curious places. Some questions were answered in the laboratory, others in mines, others in a hospital where a surgeon pushed tubes in my arteries to get blood samples, others on top of Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains, or in a diving dress on the bottom of the sea. That is one of the things I like about scientific research. You never know where it will take you next.
From essay 'Some Adventures of a Biologist', as quoted in Ruth Moore, Man, Time, And Fossils (1953), 174.
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It is necessary that a surgeon should have a temperate and moderate disposition. That he should have well-formed hands, long slender fingers, a strong body, not inclined to tremble and with all his members trained to the capable fulfilment of the wishes of his mind. He should be of deep intelligence and of a simple, humble, brave, but not audacious disposition. He should be well grounded in natural science, and should know not only medicine but every part of philosophy; should know logic well, so as to be able to understand what is written, to talk properly, and to support what he has to say by good reasons.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479), as translated by James Joseph Walsh in Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 261.
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It is sometimes asserted that a surgical operation is or should be a work of art … fit to rank with those of the painter or sculptor. … That proposition does not admit of discussion. It is a product of the intellectual innocence which I think we surgeons may fairly claim to possess, and which is happily not inconsistent with a quite adequate worldly wisdom.
Address, opening of 1932-3 session of U.C.H. Medical School (4 Oct 1932), 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 93.
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It is the surgeon’s duty to tranquillize the temper, to beget cheerfulness, and to impart confidence of recovery.
The Lectures of Sir Astley Cooper (1824), 30.

It ought ... to be understood that no one can be a good physician who has no idea of surgical operations, and that a surgeon is nothing if ignorant of medicine. In a word, one must be familiar with both departments of medicine.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479). In Henry Ebenezer Handerson, Gilbertus Anglicus (1918), 77,
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Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness by promising that he will soon be well, by allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him and by having someone tell him jokes, and let him be solaced also by music on the viol or psaltery. The surgeon must forbid anger, hatred, and sadness in the patient, and remind him that the body grows fat from joy and thin from sadness.
In James Joseph Walsh, Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 270.
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Logic does not pretend to teach the surgeon what are the symptoms which indicate a violent death. This he must learn from his own experience and observation, or from that of others, his predecessors in his peculiar science. But logic sits in judgment on the sufficiency of that observation and experience to justify his rules, and on the sufficiency of his rules to justify his conduct. It does not give him proofs, but teaches him what makes them proofs, and how he is to judge of them.
In A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence, and the Methods of Scientific Investigation (1843), Vol. 1, 11.
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March 24, 1672. I saw the surgeon cut off the leg of a wounded sailor, the stout and gallant man enduring it with incredible patience without being bound to his chair as usual on such painful occasions. I had hardly courage enough to be present. Not being cut off high enough, the gangrene prevailed, and the second operation cost the poor creature his life.
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My life as a surgeon-scientist, combining humanity and science, has been fantastically rewarding. In our daily patients we witness human nature in the raw–fear, despair, courage, understanding, hope, resignation, heroism. If alert, we can detect new problems to solve, new paths to investigate.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 565.
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My only wish would be to have ten more lives to live on this planet. If that were possible, I’d spend one lifetime each in embryology, genetics, physics, astronomy and geology. The other lifetimes would be as a pianist, backwoodsman, tennis player, or writer for the National Geographic. … I’d like to keep open the option for another lifetime as a surgeon-scientist.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 557.
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One of my surgical giant friends had in his operating room a sign “If the operation is difficult, you aren’t doing it right.” What he meant was, you have to plan every operation You cannot ever be casual You have to realize that any operation is a potential fatality.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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Science affects the average man and woman in two ways already. He or she benefits by its application driving a motor-car or omnibus instead of a horse-drawn vehicle, being treated for disease by a doctor or surgeon rather than a witch, and being killed with an automatic pistol or shell in place of a dagger or a battle-axe.
'The Scientific Point of View' In R.C. Prasad (ed.), Modern Essays: Studying Language Through Literature (1987), 26.
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Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently.
Quoted in Bob Seidensticker, Future Hype: The Myths of Technology Change (2006), 11. Contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Sepsis is an insult to a surgeon.
Anonymous
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Surgeon: A man who's always out for his cut.
Anonymous
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (322)

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit—Life!
No. 108, 'Surgeons Must Be Very Careful', (1859). In The Poems of Emily Dickinson (1958), 123.
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The best surgeon is one that hath been hacked himself.
In Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs (1922), 238.
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The British Medical Association is a club of London physicians and surgeons who once a year visit and patronize their professional friends in the country.
Anonymous
Medical Times and Gazette (18 Jan 1870), 37.
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The fame of surgeons resembles the fame of actors, who live only during their lifetime and whose talent is no longer appreciable once they have disappeared.
The Atheist's Mass. In Wallace Fowlie (ed.), French Stories (1990), 47.
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The greatest discoveries of surgery are anaesthesia, asepsis, and roentgenology—and none was made by a surgeon.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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The nature of the connexion between the mind and nervous matter has ever been, and must continue to be, the deepest mystery in physiology; and they who study the laws of Nature, as ordinances of God, will regard it as one of those secrets of his counsels ‘which Angels desire to look into.’
[Co-author with William Bowman]
In Robert Todd and William Bowman, The Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man (1845), Vol. 1, 262. Bowman was a British surgeon (1816-1892).
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The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955, 1996), 68.
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The suppression of crime is not entirely a legal question. It is a problem for the physician, the economist and the lawyer. We, as physicians, should encourage the criminologist by lending to him the surgeon, the internist and all of the rest of the resources of medicine, just as we have done in the case of the flea man, the fly man, the mosquito man, the bed-bug man and all the other ologists.
From paper read at the Section on State Medicine and Public Hygiene of the State Medical Association of Texas at El Paso (11 May 1922), 'The Use Of Scopolamine In Criminology', published in Texas State Journal of Medicine (Sep 1922). Reprinted in The American Journal of Police Science (Jul-Aug 1931), 2, No. 4, 328.
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The surgeon is a man of action. By temperament and by training he prefers to serve the sick by operating on them, and he inwardly commiserates with a patient so unfortunate as to have a disease not suited to surgical treatment. Young surgeons, busy mastering the technicalities of the art, are particularly alert to seize every legitimate opportunity to practice technical maneuvers, the more complicated the better.
American Journal of Surgery.
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The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
…...
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The surgeon should not love difficult cases and should not allow himself to be tempted to undertake those that are desperate. He should help the poor as far as he can, but he should not hesitate to ask for good fees from the rich.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479), as translated by James Joseph Walsh in Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 262.
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There is no better surgeon than a man with many scars.
In Richard Alan Krieger, Civilization's Quotations (2002), 313.
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To be great, a surgeon must have a fierce determination to be the leader in his field. He must have a driving ego, a hunger beyond money. He must have a passion for perfectionism. He is like the actor who wants his name in lights.
Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)
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Why, in God's name, in our days, is there such a great difference between a physician and a surgeon? The physicians have abandoned operative procedures and the laity, either, as some say, because they disdain to operate with their hands, or rather, as I think, because they do not know how to perform operation. Indeed, this abuse is so inveterate that the common people look upon it as impossible for the same person to understand both surgery and medicine.
Chirurgia Magna (1296, printed 1479). In Henry Ebenezer Handerson, Gilbertus Anglicus (1918), 77.
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[In an established surgical practice] there is a ghost in every bed [and fortunately] surgeons get long lives and short memories.
Anonymous
In B.J. Moran, 'Decision-making and technical factors account for the learning curve in complex surgery', Journal of Public Health (2006), 28375-378.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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