" Sciences are made by addition, and it is not possible that the same man should begin and finish them. . . " We are like infants at the neck of a giant, for we can see all that the giant sees and something more.1'—(Guy de Chaultac, Papal Physician to the Popes at Avignon).
The very interesting and in many ways astonishing development of surgery which occurred in Italy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was followed up by similar developments in the western countries of Europe. France was the first to fall into the line of progress with important advances in surgery, and owes her teaching directly to the Italians; but in Flanders, in England, in Spain, and in Germany, we have records of some significant advances in surgery, and distinguished surgeons wrote books that fortunately for the history of surgery were preserved. The most important of the surgical writings of the time, put in type during the great nascent period of printing at the Renaissance, have come down to us. Many of these have been republished in recent years, and as the texts are now readily available they enable anyone to see for himself just what were the interests of the surgeons of the later medieval period, their technique, and their successful applications of great practical principles to the solution of important surgical problems.
The beginning of French scientific surgery came with the exile from Italy of Lajrifranc, as he is known, though his Italian name was Lanfranchi or Lanfranco, and he is sometimes spoken of as Alanfrancus. He had practised as physician and surgeon in ^lilan until banished from there by Matteo Visconti, about 1290. He made his way then to Lyons, where he attracted so much attention by his success as a surgeon that he was offered the chair of professor of surgery at the University of Paris. " He attracted an almost incredible number of scholars to his lessons in Paris, and by hundreds literally they accompanied him to the bedside of his patient and attended his operations " (Gurlt). Paris was at this time at the very height of its glory as a University. It had had a series of distinguished professors whose writings are still known and honoured, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Poger Bacon, and Duns Scotus; and during the latter half of the thirteenth century Louis IX. had encouraged the University in every way, and had helped in the foundation of the Sorbonne. There were probably more students in attendance at the University of Paris about the time that Lanfranc was there than there has ever been in attendance at any University before or since. The prestige of Lanfranc's position, then, and his opportunity to impress the world of his time, can be readily appreciated.
The Dean of the medical faculty of Paris, Jean de Passavant, urged Lanfranc to write a textbook of surgery, partly for the familiar academic reason that the students were clamouring for some definite record of his teaching, but also because the Dean felt that the many copies of these lessons which the students would take away with them, and which would be consulted by others, would add greatly to the prestige of the medical school. Medical school officials are not so different after more than six and a half centuries. Lanfranc completed his textbook of surgery, called " Chirurgia Magna," in 1296, and dedicated it to Philippe le Bel, the then reigning King of France. It is from this work that we are able to judge exactly what the value of Lanfranc's surgical teaching was.
In the second chapter of his textbook—the first containing the definition of surgery and a general introduction—Lanfranc devotes some paragraphs to the surgeon himself, and the qualities that a surgeon should possess if he is to be successful in his speciality. It is about the sort of advice that older surgeons are still likely to give young men who are entering on the practice of the speciality, and more or less what is said at many a commencement in the modern time when the maker of the address to the graduates is a surgeon.
" It is necessary that a surgeon should have a temperate and moderate disposition. That he should have well-formed hands, long slender fingers, a strong body, not inclined to tremble, and with all his members trained to the capable fulfilment of the wishes of his mind. He should be well grounded in natural science, and should know not only medicine but every part of philosophy; should know logic well, so as to be able to understand what is written; to talk properly, and to support what he has to say by good reasons." He suggests that it would be well for the surgeon to have spent some time teaching grammar and dialectics and rhetoric, especially if he is to teach others in surgery, for this practice will add greatly to his teaching power. (What a desideratum for the modern time is thus outlined!) Some of his expressions might well be repeated to young surgeons in the modern time. " The surgeon should not love difficult cases, and should not allow himself to be tempted to undertake those that are desperate. He should help the poor as far as he can, but he should not hesitate to ask for good fees from the rich".
Lanfranc was himself a scholar well read in the literature of his profession, but who had well digested his reading. He quotes altogether more than a score of writers on surgery who had preceded him, and evidently was thoroughly familiar with general surgical literature. He is a particular favourite of Gurlt, the German historian of surgery, who has devoted more than twenty-five closely printed large octavo pages to the discussion of this old Paris professor and his work. Lanfranc's discussion of wounds of nerves is of itself sufficient to show the character of his work. Many generations after his time have used the word nerves for tendons, and mistaken the function of these two structures, but Lanfranc distinguished very clearly between them. He declared that since the nerves are instruments of sense and motion, wounds of them should be carefully treated, especially as the sensitiveness of these structures is likely to cause the patient much subsequent pain if they are neglected. Longitudinal wounds of nerves are much less dangerous than those across them. When a nerve is completely divided in cross section Lanfranc was of the opinion, though Theodoric and some others were opposed to it, that the nerve ends should be stitched together. He says that the suture insures the reintegration of the nerve much better. Besides, after this operation the restoration of the usefulness of the member is more assured and is commonly more complete.