Making a man, a great man: Ephraim McDowell, ovariotomy and history
Bowra, Jean M. (2005) Making a man, a great man: Ephraim McDowell, ovariotomy and history. In Social Change in the 21st Century, 28 October 2005, QUT Carseldine, Brisbane.
Doctor Ephraim McDowell is described in literature as "The Father of Ovariotomy" and
even, on occasion, as 'The Father of Abdominal Surgery' (see Ridenbaugh, 1890;
Schachner, 1921). Such titles indicate that McDowell could be considered as a 'great
man', a surgeon whose unique contribution to medicine can be described as a
definitive moment in the history of surgery. Without any intention of denying that
McDowell was, indeed, a brilliantly innovative surgeon, this paper will explore some of
the conditions of possibility that allowed one surgeon to emerge as a leader in his field.
McDowell was not the first to enter the abdomen of a patient, nor even the first to have
that patient survive. Yet his operation is recorded almost as the moment when modern
abdominal surgery began.
Using the archaeological approach of Foucault, it can be shown that certain conditions
of possibility allowed McDowell to assume his titles (Foucault, 1972). One cannot
present definitive answers to such riddles, but this paper will raise questions for
consideration. Questions that may cause us to reflect on the presentation of history
and to investigate in more detail how certain achievements are recorded. This work
will question whether Ephraim McDowell was born to be a 'great man' or was he
instead fortunate in the way history has described him.
Two operations will be illustrated here, that of Doctor Ephraim McDowell, carried out in
1809 and that of Doctor Robert Houstoun performed in 1701. After describing the
operations, details of the debate surrounding both procedures will be recounted. This
will be followed by a presentation of some of the conditions of possibility that may have
allowed McDowell to become so renowned. No definitive answers will be given here.
Rather, this work will encourage us to reflect on how some individuals attain historical
importance while others virtually disappear from our memory.
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|Item Type:||Conference Paper|
|Keywords:||Ephraim McDowell, Abdominal Surgery, Ovariotomy|
|Subjects:||Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SPECIFIC FIELDS (220200) > History and Philosophy of Medicine (220205)|
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > CLINICAL SCIENCES (110300) > Surgery (110323)
|Divisions:||Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research|
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 2005 Jean M. Bowra|
|Deposited On:||06 Feb 2006|
|Last Modified:||09 Jun 2010 22:30|
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