The Dark Ages

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. 130


 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).

Lowe, then, is still an enigmatic figure. His greatest medical achievement was surely his obtaining in 1599 the Royal Charter that led to the foundation of what became the Faculty – now the Royal College – of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. It is sad that the loss of the records of the venerable surgical College de St Come in Paris, the earliest professional body of surgeons, means that it is not now possible to verify Quesnay’s claims about the existence of what one might call a joint training in medicine and surgery in the later sixteenth century. If such a course of training existed and if Lowe was one of those Parisian Masters of Arts who transferred to surgery via a course in medicine, this influenced him in founding a Scottish society which, at its foundation, regulated both surgery and medicine and later developed into a society in which the relations between surgeons and physicians were as associates rather than as rivals. 131


"A surgeon should be young a physician old"132




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