'An Operation in 1846' Information Sheet

This account describes an operation carried out by Sir Robert Liston in 1846:


'He then takes from his long narrow case one of the straight amputating knives of his own invention. It is evidently a favourite instrument, for on the handle are little notches showing the number of times he had used it before. His house Surgeon, Ransome, puts the saw and the artery forceps onto the chair close by, then threads a wisp of well waxed hemp ligature through his own buttonhole

...... the porters are waiting just outside, and the patient is carried in on a stretcher and laid on the table..... Liston stands by, trying the edge of his knife against his thumbnail, and the tension increases...

Ransome holds the limb. "Now gentlemen, time me," says Liston to the students.

The huge left hand grasps the thigh, a thrust of the long straight knife, two or three rapid sawing movement(s) and the upper flap (of skin) is made. Half a dozen strokes and Ransome places the limb in the sawdust.

  objects from the operating thatre (photo)

"Twenty - eight seconds!" says William Squires. The femoral artery is tied with two stout ligatures, a strip of wet lint placed between the flaps and the stump raised'.

  Amputation - The cutting off of an arm or a leg.
  Forceps - an instrument like a pair of scissors, but instead of being used for cutting they are used to pinch blood vessels to prevent bleeding.
  Ligature - a fine thread made from natural fibre, used to stitch wounds together.
  Artery - a tube that carries blood from the heart to different parts of the body. The femoral artery carries the main supply of blood to the leg.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum Teacher's Resource Pack
the old operating theatre museum logo
A Robert Liston Worksheet is also available Resources Page



Bobby Approved (v 3.2)"