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The Keats Memorial Lecture 2021: Surgery and Emotion Before Anaesthesia - 23 February 2021

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The period prior to the introduction of anaesthesia in the 1840s is often characterised as a dark age of surgery, replete with blood and suffering presided over by practitioners whose dispassion bordered on cruelty. This lecture seeks to challenge these stereotypes and show that pre-anaesthetic surgery was, in fact, an emotionally rich and complex affair. Surgeons of the period, far from adopting a position of detachment, shaped identities as men of feeling, while emotional sensitivity was an essential tool of clinical decision-making and therapeutic management.

Dr Michael Brown is an expert on the history of medicine and surgery in nineteenth-century Britain. He is the author of Performing Medicine: Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 (2011) as well as a forthcoming volume on the history of surgery and emotion.

The Lecture is free for students & £10 for non-members of the Society. To reserve a place and a zoom link, contact Maria Ferran Faculty Manager & Webmaster at

For members of the Society, the Lecture costs £5, book via this URL link:

Keats Memorial Lectures are hosted biannually by King’s and the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. They were established in the 1960s by the Society and Guy’s Hospital Medical School to mark the poet’s registration as a student and surgical dresser at Guy’s Hospital in 1815 and his gaining of the Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, his licence to practise medicine, the following year. For a list of previous distinguished Lecturers see:

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23 February 2021