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James Tait Goodrich

There is a paucity of surviving texts from ancient and medieval times that can shed light on the early development of spine surgery. Nevertheless, the author reviews many of the available books and fragments and discusses early developments in the field of spine surgery from the point of view of physicians' personalities, general themes, and actual surgical practices. For purposes of an overview and to highlight changing trends in spine surgery, he divides the paper into four eras of medicine: 1) Egyptian and Babylonian; 2) Greek and early Byzantine; 3) Arabic; and 4) medieval.

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James Tait Goodrich

Making “holes in the skull” is an ancient art and by some is considered the second oldest profession in the world—the first being prostitution. Early surgeons, and later on neurosurgeons, devised a number of ingenious ways to make a hole in the skull or elevate a depressed skull fracture. Trephined skulls from antiquity have now been found in most parts of world, showing that the art of trephining is not only ancient but clearly widespread. Beginning with antiquity the author traces the development of this surgical skill by reviewing the various tools used and surgical designs to perform what is now called a craniotomy.

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James Tait Goodrich

✓The early historical literature on cervical spine surgery lacks printed material for review, and we can rely only on pathological material from the prehistoric period that has survived as a result of anthropological investigations. After the introduction of Egyptian and early Hellenic medicine, some written material became available. This paper reviews these materials, from both books and manuscripts, in an effort to understand the development of cervical spine surgery from the perspectives of the personalities involved and the early surgical practices used. The review thus considers the following five eras of medicine: 1) prehistoric; 2) Egyptian and Babylonian; 3) Greek and early Byzantine; 4) Middle Eastern; and 5) medieval.

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Kamilah A. Dowling and James Tait Goodrich

In Europe, during the 16th century, there were a number of prominent general surgeons adventurous enough to consider operating on the brain for head injuries. From the time of Hippocrates, operating on the skull and brain was considered both treacherous and too dangerous to be undertaken except on rare occasions. Operating on a member of a royal court was considered even more exceptional because if the outcome was poor, the surgeon could lose a hand or limb, or, even worse, be beheaded. The authors present two interesting cases of royal family members who underwent surgery for head injuries that were quite severe. The surgeons involved, Ambroise Paré, Andreas Vesalius, and Berengario da Carpi, were among the most prominent surgeons in Europe. Despite very challenging political situations, all were willing to undertake a complex surgical intervention on the member of a prominent royal family. The individuals involved, both royal and medical, plus the neurosurgical injuries are discussed.

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James Tait Goodrich

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Adam L. Sandler, Arundhati Biswas and James Tait Goodrich

In 1915, faced with 2 patients with large skull defects, W. Wayne Babcock, an obstetrician-gynecologist-turned-general surgeon, operating in a modest North Philadelphia hospital, did something extraordinary: he went to the hospital kitchen to look for a cranial graft. Based heavily on archival and other primary sources, the authors tell the remarkable tale of the “soup bone” cranioplasties of the Samaritan Hospital and place these operations within the context of the early modern American hospital.