Show Less
Restricted access

The Best Surgeon in England

Percivall Pott, 1713–88


Lynda Payne

Percivall Pott (1713–88) was a leading surgeon in eighteenth-century Britain. This work mines the rich biographical and bibliographical record Pott and his students left behind to add to the historical and intellectual understanding of pre-modern surgery. This was a time when surgery was becoming professionalized. Pott maintained a significant role in crafting the image of a professional surgeon as someone who is capable of treating a multitude of poor hospital patients while at the same time effectively teaching operative skills and manners to the next generation of young men and running a successful and wealth-producing private practice.

Pott had more medical conditions named after him during his lifetime than any other surgeon of his era or since; analyzing what conditions surgeons claimed were theirs to manage and what ailments patients sought surgical solutions for reveals the importance and power of rhetoric in crafting the increasingly rigid definition of medicine as a sophisticated scientific activity rather than a mundane lay experience of treating sickness. The practice of naming conditions after surgeons also helps lay bare the power to classify and own certain sites in the body.

An account of Pott’s life and work challenges the prevailing view in historiographical works of surgery before the era of general anesthesia as a realm of screaming patients and larger than life eccentric medical men whose primary aims were to operate as fast as possible. Through an examination of the life and work of the man rated the best surgeon in England by his contemporaries, the whole field of surgery in history becomes humanized.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access



Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Payne, Lynda. Title: The best surgeon in England: Percivall Pott, 1713–88 / Lynda Payne. Other titles: Percivall Pott, 1713–88 Description: New York: Peter Lang. Series: American university studies. IX, History; vol. 205 | ISSN 0740-0462 Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2013028628 | ISBN 978-1-4331-2319-1 (hardcover: alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4539-1191-4 (ebook pdf) | ISBN 978-1-4331-3727-3 (epub) ISBN 978-1-4331-3728-0 (mobi) | DOI 10.3726/978-1-4539-1191-4 Subjects: LCSH: Pott, Percivall, 1713–1788. | Surgeons—Great Britain—Biography. Medicine—Great Britain—History—18th century. Classification: LCC R489.P595 P39 | DDC 617.092 [B]—dc23 LC record available at

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

© 2017 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York 29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006

All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm, xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.