Samuel Sharpe(1700-1778) is considered the link between old and modern surgery. William Cheselden, the leading surgeon in the first half of the eighteenth century, was his master; John Hunter, if not actually his pupil, learned from him by tradition.
Sharpe was elected surgeon to Guy's Hospital in 1733. His Treatise on the operations of surgery (first published in 1739) and his Critical enquiry into the present state of surgery (1750) were celebrated in their day, and the Critical enquiry is still a most interesting book to the surgeon.
AS I am chiefly indebted to the Advantage of an Education under You, for whatever Knowledge I can pretend to in Surgery, I could not in the least hesitate to whom I should dedicate this Treatise; though was it my Misfortune to be a Stranger to your Person, that Merit which has made the World so long esteem You the Ornament of our Profession, would alone have induced me to shew You this Mark of my Respect, which I hope will not be unacceptable from,
Your most obedient
AS the Methods of operating in Surgery have of late Years been exceedingly improved in England, and there is no Treatise of Character on that Subject written in our Language, I believe it is not necessary to apologize for this Undertaking: It is true, we have a few Translations from the Writings of Foreigners, but besides that they are unacquainted with these Improvements, their manner of describing an Operation is so very minute, and in general so little pleasing, that could nothing new be added, or nothing false exploded, the Possibility of only doing it more concisely and agreeably would be a reasonable Inducement to the Attempt.
In the Description of Diseases, I have only mentioned their distinguishing Appearances, and have not once dared to guess at that particular Disorder in the Animal Oeconomy, which is the immediate Cause of them; indeed, the Uncertainty there is in Conjectures of this intricate Nature, and the little Service that can accrue to Surgery from such Speculative Enquiries, have entirely deterred me from all Pretence to this sort of Theory; and since the most ingenious Men hitherto, have not, by the help of Hypotheses, done any considerable Service to the Practice of Surgery, nay, for the most part have misled young Surgeons from the Study of the Symptoms and Cure of Diseases, to an idle turn of Reasoning, and a certain Stile in Conversation, which has very much discredited the Art amongst Men of Sense; I hope I am right in my Silence on that Head.
It has been very much my Endeavour to make this Treatise short, and therefore I have given no Histories of Cases, but where the uncommonness of the Doctrine made it proper to ilIustrate it with Fact, and these I have recited in the most concise manner I was able: On this account too, I think, I have not attempted to explode any Practice which is already in disrepute, and if it appear otherwise to Men of Skill here in London, I beg they will refer to those Books of Surgery which are now the best esteemed in Europe, and to which I have almost always had an Eye in the Criticisms I have made on the generality of Opinions.
It is usual with most Writers to describe at length the Several Bandages proper to be employed after each Operation; but as the manner of applying them can hardly be learnt from a Description only, or if it could, there is so little to be said on that Subject, but what must be copied from others, that I have forborn to follow the Example; though to say the Truth, the Purpose of Bandage being chiefly to maintain the due Situation of a Dressing or to make a Compress on particular Parts, Surgeons always turn a Roller with those Views, as their Discretion and Dexterity guide them, without any Regard to the exact Rules laid down in these Descriptions, which are almost impossible to be retained in the Memory without a continual Practice of them, and therefore we see are not much attended to.
In the first Edition of this Treatise, I asserted that the Hæmorrhage, which sometimes ensues in the Lateral Operation, had been esteemed an Objection of so great Weight, as to have occasioned its being suppressed in the Hospitals of France by a Royal Edict: I have since been informed I was mistaken in that Particular, and that it had only been forbidden in the Charité by Monsieur Marechal, the King's first Surgeon, who had the Inspection of the Practice of Surgery in that Hospital: what were his Motives for not suffering this Method to be continued there, after having been performed a whole Season, I will not take upon me to determine.