The word surgery derives from the French term “chirurgien,” which came from the Latin and in turn from the Greek words “cheir,” meaning “hand” and “ergon,” meaning work. Surgery has a long history beginning with what is said to be the earliest scientific document known, The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, dating from the 17th century before Christ, actually a copy of an Egyptian manuscript originally written circa 3000–2500 bc. The document deals with a variety of wounds and cauterization for breast cancer. No intraperitoneal operation is mentioned.
Although Maingot's Abdominal Operations had its genesis in England, elective abdominal operations had their beginning in Danville, Kentucky, a town of 1000 at the time, with the removal of a 22½-lb ovarian tumor by Ephraim McDowell on December 25, 1809. Throughout the 19th century, surgeons from Great Britain and the United States, the two countries that would eventually play major roles in the development of the multiple editions of Maingot's Abdominal Operations, contributed significantly to the evolution of abdominal operations. In 1804, Sir Astley Cooper published a Treatise on Hernia. In 1833, William Beaumont, an American military surgeon, published Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion. The experiments conducted through a permanent gastric fistula constituted the first controlled clinical study on a human being and defined the process of intragastric digestion. On October 16, 1846, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the birth of ether anesthesia took place and ushered in a new generation of possibilities for all of surgery. In 1867, John Stough Bobbs of Indianapolis reported the first successful elective operation on the gallbladder, a cholecystostomy with removal of stones and closure of the organ. The patient remained relatively asymptomatic for over 40 years. The 1886 landmark paper by the Boston pathologist Reginald H. Fitz established the entity of appendicitis and championed early operation. As the 19th century came to a close, the German schools of surgery became increasingly dominant, in large part related to Theodor Billroth and the surgeons he trained. Billroth is often referred to as “the father of abdominal surgery” based on his first resection of cancer of the pylorus in 1881 and also the numerous intestinal resections and enterorrhaphies that he performed.
As the first decade of the 21st century has come to an end, it is appropriate to focus on the developments that took place during the preceding 20th century, by dividing this period into two time spans: one before 1940, the year that the first edition of Maingot's Abdominal Operations was published, and the other considering the progress that has taken place in the ensuing 60 years.
In discussing the history of surgical advances pertaining to the gastrointestinal tract per se, it is reasonable to proceed aborally from esophagus to rectum. In regard to the esophagus, the first significant operation was reported in 1913 by Franz Torek of New York City, who removed the entire thoracic ...