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

Surgery Quotes (43 quotes)

Publius Ovid quote Some wounds are made worse
Wall mural uncovered at Pompeii shows a Roman army medic using pinchers to remove an object from a soldier’s wound from before 79 a.d. (source)
Curando fieri quaedam majora videmus vulnera, quae melius non tetigisse fuit.
Some wounds are made worse by treatment, as we see: it had been better not to touch them.
From Epistolae ex Ponto, III., 7, 25. Original Latin and translation in Arthur Leslie Wheeler (trans.), Ovid: With an English Translation: Tristia, Ex Ponto (1939), 416-417. Also seen translated as “Some wounds grow worse beneath the surgeon’s hand; ’Twere better that they were not touched at all” as in Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1897), 39. [However, note that this is an artistic translation, not very literal; the words for surgeon or hand do not appear in the Latin text. The Google translation engine outputs this translation of the Latin: “We see greater things to be done taking care of the kind of wounds, which would be better not to touch them.” —Webmaster]
Science quotes on:  |  Better (192)  |  Touch (77)  |  Treatment (100)  |  Worse (24)  |  Wound (11)

A pair of Siamese twins in Australia, surgically separated six months ago, has been sewn back together. Apparently, each of them could remember only half the combination to their locker.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Combination (91)  |  Half (56)  |  Remember (82)  |  Separate (74)

A statistical analysis, properly conducted, is a delicate dissection of uncertainties, a surgery of suppositions.
In Facts from Figures (1951), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (166)  |  Conduct (31)  |  Delicate (21)  |  Dissection (29)  |  Proper (38)  |  Statistics (147)  |  Supposition (37)  |  Uncertainty (42)

Again and again, often in the busiest phases of the insulin investigations, he [Frederick Banting] found time to set a fracture or perform a surgical operation on one of his army comrades or on some patient who was in need.
In 'Obituary: Sir Frederick Banting', Science (14 Mar 1941), N.S. 93, No. 2411, 248.
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And indeed I am not humming,
Thus to sing of Cl-ke and C-ming,
Who all the universe surpasses
in cutting up and making gases;
With anatomy and chemics,
Metaphysics and polemics,
Analyzing and chirugery,
And scientific surgery …
H-slow's lectures on the cabbage
Useful are as roots of Babbage;
Fluxions and beet-root botany,
Some would call pure monotony.
Punch in Cambridge (28 Jan 1834). In Mark Weatherall, Gentlemen, Scientists, and Medicine at Cambridge 1800-1940 (2000), Vol. 3,77. The professors named were William Clark (anatomy), James Cumming (chemistry) and Johns Stephens Henslow (botany).
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As an adult she had her organs removed one by one. Now she is a mere shell with symptoms where her organs used to be.
Written as an intern on one of his patient's charts; commentary on the result of surgical treatment of non-organic disease.
In Barry G. Firkin, Judith A. Whitworth, Dictionary of Medical Eponyms (1966), 267.
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Before his [Sir Astley Cooper’s] time, operations were too often frightful alternatives or hazardous compromises; and they were not seldom considered rather as the resource of despair than as a means of remedy; he always made them follow, as it were, in the natural course of treatment; he gave them a scientific character; and he moreover, succeeded, in a great degree, in divesting them of their terrors, by performing them unostentatiously, simply, confidently, and cheerfully, and thereby inspiring the patient with hope of relief, where previously resignation under misfortune had too often been all that could be expected from the sufferer.
In John Forbes (ed.), British and Foreign Medical Review (Jul 1840), 10, No. 19, 104. In Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Sir Astley Paston Cooper (13)

Christ, it’s going to work!
Exclaimed at end of the first heart transplant operation, when an electric shock was applied to the first transplanted heart, and it jumped and started beating swiftly. As quoted in Melissa August, et al., '34 Years Ago in Time', Time (15 Dec 1967).
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Geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven than in teaching navigation; surgery better in investigating organiation than in setting limbs; only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every step we make in science adds something to its practical applicabilities.
Modern Painters (1852), Part 3, 8-9.
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Get a scalpel, and practice just, say, cutting a piece of meat or something like that. You sort of learn how you want to hold your fingers, and that sort of thing, and try to become graceful when you operate.

Here the most sublime scene ever witnessed in the operating room was presented when the patient placed himself voluntarily upon the table, which was to become the altar of future fame. … The heroic bravery of the man who voluntarily placed himself upon the table, a subject for the surgeon’s knife, should be recorded and his name enrolled upon parchment, which should be hung upon the walls of the surgical amphitheatre in which the operation was performed. His name was Gilbert Abbott.
Description of the first public demonstration of ether at the Massachussetts General Hospital (16 Oct 1846).
From the Semi-Centennial of Anesthesia, Massachusetts General Hospital (1897). In Logan Clendening, Source Book of Medical History (1960), 373.
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I am just laboring in the vineyard. I am at the operating table, and I make my rounds. I believe there is a cross-fertilization between writing and surgery. If I withdraw from surgery, I would not have another word to write. Having become a writer makes me a better doctor.
[Reply to reporter's question whether he would rather be a full-time writer instead of a surgeon.]
Quoted in Thomas Lask, 'Publishing:Surgeon and Incisive Writer', New York Times (28 Sep 1979), C24.
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I became expert at dissecting crayfish. At one point I had a crayfish claw mounted on an apparatus in such a way that I could operate the individual nerves. I could get the several-jointed claw to reach down and pick up a pencil and wave it around. I am not sure that what I was doing had much scientific value, although I did learn which nerve fiber had to be excited to inhibit the effects of another fiber so that the claw would open. And it did get me interested in robotic instrumentation, something that I have now returned to. I am trying to build better micromanipulators for surgery and the like.
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'A.I.', The New Yorker (14 Dec 1981).
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I came by the horror naturally. Surgery is the one branch of medicine that is the most violent. After all, it’s violent to take up a knife and cut open a person’s body and rummage around with your hands. I think I was attracted to the horrific.
As quoted in Randy Hutter Epstein, 'Richard Selzer, Who Fictionalized Medicine’s Absurdity and Gore, Dies at 87', New York Times (15 Jun 2016). Explaining why his first fiction writing was horror stories.
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I find that most men would rather have their bellies opened for five hundred dollars than have a tooth pulled for five.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for.
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I would like to see the day when somebody would be appointed surgeon somewhere who had no hands, for the operative part is the least part of the work.
Letter to Dr Henry Christian (20 Nov 1911). Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963).

I would never use a long word, even, where a short one would answer the purpose. I know there are professors in this country who “ligate” arteries. Other surgeons only tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well.
'Scholastic and Bedside Teaching', Introductory Lecture to the Medical Class of Harvard University (6 Nov 1867). In Medical Essays 1842-1882 (1891), 302.
Science quotes on:  |  Nomenclature (138)  |  Word (302)

I've always thought that my exposure to competitive sports helped me a great deal in the operating room. It teaches you endurance, and it teaches you how to cope with defeat, and with complications of all sort. I think I'm a well-coordinated person, more than average, and I think that came through my interest in sports, and athletics. ... [Playing basketball] You have to make decisions promptly, and that's true in the operating room as well.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (150)

If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife and cure it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an operating knife, and saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in money. …
If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with an operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off. ...
If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part of a man, the patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.
[The Code of Hammurabi (a king of ancient Babylon), the earliest well-preserved ancient law code, circa 1760 B.C.]
In L. W. King (trans.), The Code of Hammurabi (1910), 22, No. 215, 218 and 221.
Science quotes on:  |  Money (142)  |  Physician (243)

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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In the performance of our duty one feeling should direct us; the case we should consider as our own, and we should ask ourselves, whether, placed under similar circumstances, we should choose to submit to the pain and danger we are about to inflict.
Quoted in Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 207.

It is not always worth the discomforts of major surgery to get minor recovery.
A Sense of Asher (1972), 86.

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 Surgery that, long after it has passed into obsolescence, will be remembered as the glory of Medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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It takes five years to learn when to operate and twenty years to learn when not to.
Science quotes on:  |  Operation (121)

It was above all in the period after the devastating incursions of the Goths that all branches of knowledge which previously had flourished gloriously and been practiced in the proper manner, began to deteriorate. This happened first of all in Italy where the most fashionable physicians, spurning surgery as did the Romans of old, assigned to their servants such surgical work as their patients seemed to require and merely exercised a supervision over them in the manner of architects.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, i, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), Preface, xlviii.
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Let the sun never set or rise on a small bowel obstruction.
Adage expressing urgency for early operation to avoid possible fatality.
Summary of classic advice by Georg Friedrich Louis Stromeyer (1804-76) for a stangulated hernia. In Joe J. Tjandra et al., Textbook of Surgery (2006), 159.
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Physical misery is great everywhere out here [Africa]. Are we justified in shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell us nothing about it? We civilised people have been spoilt. If any one of us is ill the doctor comes at once. Is an operation necessary, the door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately. But let every one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and millions live without help or hope of it. Every day thousands and thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science could avert them. Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off hut a despair which we could banish. Will each of my readers think what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort? It is time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!
In On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, trans. C. T. Campion (1948, 1998), 126-127.
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So much goes into doing a transplant operation. All the way from preparing the patient, to procuring the donor. It's like being an astronaut. The astronaut gets all the credit, he gets the trip to the moon, but he had nothing to do with the creation of the rocket, or navigating the ship. He's the privileged one who gets to drive to the moon. I feel that way in some of these more difficult operations, like the heart transplant.
Science quotes on:  |  Heart (139)  |  Transplant (9)

Surgery is always second best. If you can so something else, it’s better. Surgery is limited. It is operating on someone who has no place else to go.
'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)

Surgery is the cry of defeat in medicine.
In Fischerisms (1930), 7.
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Surgery is the red flower that blooms among the leaves and thorns that are the rest of medicine.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 51.
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Surgical knowledge depends on long practice, not from speculations.
'Letter to Borghese' (27 Jul 1689), quoted in H.B. Adelmann (ed.), The Correspondence of Marcello Malpighi (1975), Vol. 4, 1486.
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The fundamental act of medical care is assumption of responsibility. Surgery has assumed responsibility for disease which is largely acute, local or traumatic. This is responsibility for the entire range of injuries and wounds, local infections, benign and malignant tumors, as well as a large fraction of those pathologic processes and anomalies which are localized in the organs of the body. The study of surgery is a study of these diseases, the conditions and details of their care.
Metabolic Care of the Surgical Patient (1959), Preface. In Loyal Davis, David C. Sabiston, Jr., David C. Sabiston, Frederick Christopher, Davis-Christopher Textbook of Surgery (1972), 19.

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 heart transplant wasn’t such a big thing surgically. The point is I was prepared to take the risk. My philosophy is that the biggest risk in life is not to take the risk.
In conversation with Time magazine. As quoted in 'Christiaan Barnard', Encyclopedia of World Biography.
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The practice of medicine is a thinker’s art, the practice of surgery a plumber’s.
In Fischerisms (1930), 7.
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The steam-engine in its manifold applications, the crime-decreasing gas-lamp, the lightning conductor, the electric telegraph, the law of storms and rules for the mariner's guidance in them, the power of rendering surgical operations painless, the measures for preserving public health, and for preventing or mitigating epidemics,—such are among the more important practical results of pure scientific research, with which mankind have been blessed and States enriched.
President's Address to the British Association, Leeds (1858). In Charles W. Vincent and James Mason (eds.), The Year-book of Facts in Science and Art (1859), title page.
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There cannot always be fresh fields of conquest by the knife; there must be portions of the human frame that will ever remain sacred from its intrusions, at least in the surgeon's hands. That we have already, if not quite, reached these final limits, there can be little question. The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will be forever shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.
Quoted in C. Cerf and V. Navasky (eds.), I Wish I hadn't Said That: The Experts Speak and Get it Wrong! (2000), 31.
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Those who intend to practise Midwifery, ought first of all to make themselves masters of anatomy, and acquire a competent knowledge in surgery and physic; because of their connections with the obstetric art, if not always, at least in many cases. He ought to take the best opportunities he can find of being well instructed; and of practising under a master, before he attempts to deliver by himself. ... He should also embrace every occasion of being present at real labours, ... he will assist the poor as well as the rich, behaving always with charity and compassion.
In A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (1766), 440-441.
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We can learn a lot from living organisms. An organism is a pretty complicated thing, which can tolerate surgery, which can tolerate injury, which can tolerate all kinds of perturbation provided they are not too great and do not come too suddenly. There’s something we call trauma, however. We don’t really understand what it is—but organisations can suffer from it too.
From interview with Graham Chedd, 'The Lady Gets Her Way', New Scientist (5 Jul 1973), 59, No. 853, 16.
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[I] could see how nervous everybody was in the beginning and how silent it was when we had trouble with the artificial heart [during the surgery, but later in the operation, when it was working, there were moments] of loud and raucous humor.
[Commenting after reviewing the video tape of the world's first human implantation of an artificial heart.]
Quoted by Lawrence K. Altman in “Clark's Surgeon Was ‘Worried To Death’&rdquo, New York Times (12 Apr 1983), C2.
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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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Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
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
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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