The PioneersThe MilitaryReferences

James Syme 1799-1870

The first case that I scrubbed for during the first Gulf War, was a Symes amputation on an unfortunate Iraqi soldier who was captured by the SAS and delivered to our Field Hospital in the desert.

James Syme was a Scottish Surgeon from Edinburgh. Like most surgeons of that era he came from a middle class family.

He was nearly famous for inventing Macintosh's rubber rainproof garments but failed to pursue his wondrous idea. Syme was a contempory of Robert Liston and it is true to say that they did not get on, he worked with him at a stage in his career as his assistant.

Syme became great friends of Joseph Lister, Lister married his eldest daughter Agnus.

Symes amputation was successful because the cartilage is less susceptible to infection, and during this time when there was a high mortality rate as a result of infection, this was a major achievement.

Symes was aware of the impact that antisepsis had on the surgical patient, and pursued and encouraged his son in law Joseph Lister to find a treatment for sepsis.