‘America’s First Brain Surgeon’ Served During Civil War and


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Army Maj. (Dr.) William Williams Keen Jr. was a revolutionary navy physician whose job spanned surgical obligation on the bloody battlefields of the American Civil War through influential analysis function throughout Environment War I.

When known as “America’s to start with brain surgeon,” Keen served propel various developments in medicine. He played a important role in the birth of bacteriology, neurology, use of antisepsis, sterile surgical strategies, brain operation, and the breakthrough discovery that insects carry and spread health conditions.

With a exclusive viewpoint soon after serving in two cataclysmic wars, Keen wrote a 1918 paper named “Military Surgical procedures in 1861 and in 1918.”

In it, he marveled at the information obtained in the subject of navy medication in the course of his 50 many years of assistance and expressed his excitement for what was to come in the subsequent 50 a long time and over and above, according to personnel at the National Museum of Overall health and Medication in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In his influential paper, Keen lamented the innumerable fatalities for the duration of the Civil War that could have been avoided with greater military area surgical techniques and surgeons with highly developed knowledge.

“Amongst these two dates is a veritable chasm of ignorance which we can only actually enjoy when we peer over its edge and learn how wide and deep it is,” he wrote.

“Medical observation has carried out much, but exploration and chiefly experimental investigation, has finished significantly a lot more.”

“Investigate has not yet ceased to give us greater and greater procedures of coping with disease and death, and – thank God – it will hardly ever stop so extended as disease and death keep on to afflict the human race,” he wrote.

Keen’s function played an significant position in the sizeable enhancements in battlefield survival costs for the duration of conflicts in the 20th century.

Pursuits and Advancements

He attributed his expertise to the successes of rigorous study, for which he passionately advocated, in accordance to a profile by the National Museum of Well being and Medication, a branch of the Analysis Aid Division of the Protection Wellness Agency Exploration and Engineering Directorate.

In the course of the Civil War, Keen created an desire in documenting injuries of the anxious technique. These studies are viewed as to be the origin of American neurology.

His provider centered on Turner’s Lane Healthcare facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was devoted to dealing with accidents and conditions of the nerves. There, he was an associate of Dr. George R. Morehouse and Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who was an early believer in what is typically known as phantom limb agony.

Eager collaborated with both of those adult men to write a traditional textual content, “Gunshot Wounds and Other Accidents of Nerves,” posted in 1864, stated Laura Cutter, an archivist at the museum.

When Dr. Joseph Lister, an influential British surgeon, arrived to Philadelphia throughout his 1876 tour of America, Keen read his views on antisepsis in operation and was one particular of the first American surgeons to adopt Lister’s procedure. In 1892, Eager co-authored the initial American operation text based mostly on Listerian concepts, Cutter explained.

Eager also acquired celeb as the to start with surgeon in the Americas to accomplish a prosperous mind tumor removal in 1887. As these kinds of, he turned acknowledged as “America’s initially brain surgeon.”

He noticed surgical obligation while however in health-related school at the initial key battle of the Civil War, the Initially Fight of Bull Operate in Manassas, Virginia, in July 1861. He also served through the 2nd Fight of Bull Run in August 1862, and, at the deadliest a single-working day struggle in American military services background, the Battle of Antietam, Sharpsburg, Maryland, in September 1862.

In March 1862, he was commissioned out of professional medical college as an acting assistant surgeon in the Union Army and was in demand of Eckington Common Healthcare facility around Washington, D.C.

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