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Learning from Lister

Godlee and Hewitt

Inscription from Godlee to Hewitt written on notepaper headed 19. Wimpole Street. W.Inscription from Godlee to Hewitt, from a volume of Lister's Collected papers. Reproduced by kind permission of the copyright holder.

The volumes in this section comprise Lister’s treatises on bacteriology, inflammation, suppuration and anaesthesia; most formed the scientific support to his practice of antiseptic surgery. Although the book itself is not rare, this particular copy has interesting associations with Lister and his surgical world.

This copy was given by Lister’s nephew Sir Rickman John Godlee (1849-1925) to the eminent anaesthetist Sir Frederic William Hewitt (1857-1916). Godlee, who specialised in thoracic complaints, was one of the pioneers of antiseptic surgery and wrote a highly favourable and very influential biography of its founder. In 1884 he performed the first operation to remove a brain tumour. Although this was initially successful, the patient subsequently died from post-operative infection. Hewitt, who was anaesthetist to Edward VII and George V, pioneered many improvements to this new discipline and was successful in persuading the General Medical Council to make anaesthesia part of the medical curriculum. The inscription, dated 4 October 1909, reads:

My dear Hewitt I believe that you will find these volumes really interesting. They may remind you that you gave me on one occasion a placid and peaceful sleep for which I am very grateful.

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