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The Dark Ages

William of Saliceto.1210-1280

William of Saliceto was the best and ablest Italian surgeon of the 13th century. He was a Professor at the University of Bologna; his name was William of Saliceto. He was instrumental in setting up a school of surgery. His book “Chirurgia” was highly original and not based on any previous writings.

Book IV of Chirurgia is particularly important because it contains the first section dealing with regional or surgical anatomy.
A major advance promoted at the time by William was replacing the Arabic method of burning with cautery with the use of the surgical knife. 99


He probably dissected human remains himself to further his knowledge. He recommended the use of the knife as well as cautery in surgery.

He also stressed that pus formation was a bad thing and not something which should be encouraged. Pus formation was accepted as part and parcel of wound healing at the time. Most surgeons at the time followed Aetius of Amida (d. 444 AD) practice and encouraged the formation of pus by using poultices.
William of Saliceto also sutured severed nerves and blood vessels back together in surgery and tried to bring the disciplines of medicine and surgery closer together.100However, his works on fractures and spinal lesions mostly failed, as these lesions are rarely treatable.

 

 

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“We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity - romantic love and gunpowder.” 101

 

 

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