Blood and guts: a history of surgery. Part 1, Into the brain.

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About this work


The first in a 5-part series in which Michael Mosley traces the evolution of surgery as it progressed, in his words, from butchery to brilliance. This part features surgery on the brain, beginning with cutting edge brain surgery performed by Andrew McEvoy on Catherine, a woman with epilepsy, then moving back through the history of neurosurgery - the history is pieced together with excellent archival footage, eye witness and expert accounts. The first pioneer in neurosurgery was Harvey Cushing; Mosley is shown around his archive at Yale School of Medicine by Professor Dennis Spencer - the archive contains over 1000 preserved brains of Cushing's former patients. How localisation in the brain, essential for safe neurosurgery, was discovered is shown with archival evidence and a modern day test to show how localisation works is performed on Mosley. The life and work of infamous lobotomist Walter Freeman is covered and his son Franklin Freeman describes seeing his father perform one of his transorbital lobotomies. The brain of a man who had a lobotomy performed by Freeman when just a boy is scanned by MRI to see the long-term effects of the procedure. It shows black cavities in his frontal lobes; this is the first time a lobotomised brain has been scanned. The discovery of deep brain stimulation is covered. Jose Delgado's passification of a bull by electrodes is shown in archival footage and we meet Stuart who underwent surgery to put electrodes into his brain to ease the symptoms of his Parkinson's Disease. The programme is watchable and informative for anyone interested in surgery in general and in the history of neurosurgery in particular.


UK : BBC 4, 2008.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color

Copyright note



Broadcast on 20 August, 2008

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Sadie Holland.



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