John Hunter in “The Knife Man” by Wendy Moore


The book, “The Knife Man”, is an effort put forth by Wendy Moore, to state the outstanding efforts of John Hunter, who was one of the innovators of medicinal practices. It is a collection of what Hunter had done to solve many medical issues of patients related to surgery, in an era when a lot of bloodshed took place, due to lack of knowledge regarding the human body.

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Hunter has been acknowledged with his efforts put into the medical field in the eighteenth century. He has been appreciated in the book, by providing the practices he executed in the treatment of his patients, by thorough study of the human body, and experimentation, which caused him illness too.

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One of the experiments carried out by Hunter, who is also known as the ‘knife man’, as given in the book, is the surgery of an aneurysm that occurred in a cab driver. This surgery took place in the year 1785, in St. George’s Hospital, London. I turned out to be a success, despite the many resisting forces put forward by Hunter’s colleagues. They were of the opinion that cutting up people was not the solution to every disease. Prior to this experiment, the only solution there was to a popliteal artery aneurysm was to wait for it to rupture, or to cut off, which increased the risk of death, or at least permanent damage to that part of the body.

Popliteal artery aneurysms are the most widespread forms of peripheral aneurysms today. Mostly found to be present in males, this defect is treated mostly the way Hunter did, in one of his experiments.

Hunter, in his surgery, used one of his theories of collateral circulation, which was previously used by him in experimentation on dogs. He was aware that a ligation near the aneurysm would not prove successful, as was always practiced prior to his trial. So he ligated the aneurysmal artery where it was normal (A Surgical History: The Knife Man, 2008). This procedure proved successful for him, and the cab driver was back to his normal routine work, in a couple of days. After the success of this surgery, the same method was adopted by surgeons, and is still the standard treatment for popliteal artery aneurysms (Aneurysm Center, 2003).

The works of John Hunter were great enough to be praised and followed till date, and all modern day surgery is owed to him, and the techniques he applied, with vast knowledge of human anatomy. However, his opinion of gonorrhea and syphilis being the same was incorrect, as he had taken the inoculums for the experiment, from a patient suffering from both the diseases, further strengthening his single identity view. Many were of the same thought, until the French physician Phillipe Record, gave the final evidence of the difference between the two diseases (Lock, et al. 2001).

There have been differing views regarding what Hunter thought of the two diseases. Some say that he had personally participated in the experiment for verification of the two diseases being one and the same, but others claim this as incorrect information, and that the experiment is stated in the third person, thus it had been carried out on some other patient (lock, et al. 2001).

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It can be proved that John Hunter’s methodologies for performing surgeries was authentic, and whatever today’s surgeons are executing in their medical practices, is payable to him.

Works Cited

Aneurysm Center 2003. Web.

A surgical history: The knife man 2008. Web.

Locke, S., Last, J. & Dunea, G.The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine 2001. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'John Hunter in “The Knife Man” by Wendy Moore'. 9 October.

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