Saturday, August 2, 2008


This is a photograph from 1902 showing a patient about to get an operation. The interesting thing is the large crowd of spectators. One would assume that they are medical students, or somehow there for a reason. It creates an unusual image, since they are there in street clothes . . . they look like they are attending the opera. The picture was taken at the Jefferson Medical College Hospital.


  1. It wasn't just medical students who were in the audience it was also a popular activity within wealthy circles to attend an operation (the more blood the better apparently).

    As you probably know this is where the term "Operating theatre", or simply shortened to "theatre", comes from, and for some in the audience it was simply an alternative to a night at the normal theatre.

  2. defusion,
    Thanks for the information! I actually was hoping that was not the case. So the people were there for entertainment. Wow, that is hard to believe.

  3. What's even more disturbing is the patient's exposure to all kinds of bacteria from the 'audience.'

    Shudder to think about the extra risks of surgery in those days.

  4. Of course the patient is dead.