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William Stewart Halsted (1852–1922)
  1. L F HAAS

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    Among surgeons who decisively influenced concepts and the technical procedures of surgery was WS Halsted. Halsted became the first professor of surgery at John Hopkins Medical School at Baltimore in 1892. He, Osler, Kelly, and Welch, were four major figures who made John Hopkins famous at the time. At one time one of his assistants was Cushing.  After graduating in 1877 he spent 2 years as a postgraduate student at the Universities of Vienna, Leipzig, and Würzburg. When he returned to the United States he worked as a surgeon in several New York hospitals before a growing addiction to cocaine forced him to leave in search of a cure. Carl Koller in 1884 demonstrated the effectiveness of cocaine as a local anaesthetic. Halsted recognised the importance of this work. Experimentation with cocaine led to his addiction. Three of his fellow experimenters also became addicted and all three died. In 1885 he showed that local anaesthesia could be produced by infiltration of cocaine around appropriate nerves. The drug that had been introduced into medicine by Sigmund Freud, also in 1884, rapidly became a valuable anaesthetic for minor surgery.  One of his greatest contributions was the lead he took in aseptic surgery. In 1889 Halsted introduced thin rubber gloves into operating theatres. This followed his arranging with the Goodyear Rubber Company to make gloves for Caroline Hampton, his future wife, whose hands were allergic to the antiseptic used.  Halsted is depicted on a stamp issued by Transkei in 1985 (Stanley Gibbons 179, Scott 112).

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