The Dark Ages

During the end of the 16th century, the surgeon still had not reached professional status. He was still regarded as a skilled artisan; this was reflected in his pay, getting paid 1s a day, the same as a drummer or sergeant at the time. Because of their degrading association with the barbers, recognition was slow. It did not help their cause, as many of the surgeons at the time were ignorant charlatans. In the 16th century, the Catholic regime in Spain was at war with England and her allies in the Low Countries.

William Clowes 1540-1604 

William Clowes was born in 1540, of Kingsbury, Warwickshire gentry (His family had their own coat of arms) and after apprenticeship to George Keble, became a London surgeon, at the age of 12 and apprenticed for six years and then became a member of the Barber-Surgeons’ Company. 238

After spending some time as a young man at war, applying his trade (He was on the unsuccessful venture to Normandy with the Earl of Warwick) and then in the Navy, he left for London and worked at the famous St Bartholomew's Hospital.

He was surgeon to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital from 1575 to 1585, and afterwards served with the army abroad, and was in the field when Sir Philip Sidney was wounded. The story says that during the battle of Zutphen, Sidney was shot in the thigh and died twenty-six days later, at the age of 31. According to the story, while lying wounded Sidney gave his water-bottle to another wounded soldier, saying, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine".┬áThis became possibly the most famous story about Sir Phillip, intended to illustrate his noble character.

Before settling in practice he had been some years in the navy, and in 1588 he again went to sea in the fleet which defeated the Armada. 

He worked at St Bartholomew’ and was surgeon General to Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, He is noted for pointing out surgeons of poor quality. Clowes is quoted as saying: Clowes died aged 64.

“There is no coin so counterfeit, which make it suspicious; and none so much as there is in these days, that take upon them the honest names of travelling surgeons. They have been and are entertained as principle surgeons of ships of war, in charge of a number of men. Truly many brave soldiers and mariners have died as a result.”129

Peter Lowe 1550-1612

Another book published at the time was by a Scot, Peter Lowe, A Discourse of the Whole Art of Chirurgery (1596) this is one of the best works of the period on the subject. In his book he advocated amputation by the axe, and then to cauterise the wound by the application of a hot iron.

He founded the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1599. This being a unique organisation as it did not separate the two specialities.

Much of Lowe's life remains something of a mystery and the subject of some conjecture. He was born probably somewhere in the west of Scotland. He called himself a 'Scottish man'. In about 1566, Lowe travelled to France and there he spent some 30 or so years, serving as a surgeon in both the French and Spanish armies, the latter during campaigns in Flanders. He certainly acquired considerable experience of military surgery. 239

 During the Civil War the surgeon had reached commissioned status, although this only applied to the senior surgeon. The assistant surgeon had to wait another hundred years or so. 1655 saw the end to the Barber surgeons reign in England; a Surgeons mate replaced his position.

(All initially did not approve this, as it was argued who will shave the men, if the surgeon will not do it).



Quote 53

"A surgeon should be young a physician old" 130

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Ken True History of Surgery and Anaesthesia