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Diorama showing Ambroise Paré treating the wounded, England, 1901-1970

Diorama showing Ambroise Paré treating the wounded, England, 1901-1970

Credits: Science Museum

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Reconstructed from a painting at the Sorbonne in Paris, this diorama shows Ambroise Paré (c. 1510-1590), a French surgeon, treating the wounded outside a cathedral after battle. Infections such as gangrene often meant that minor wounds resulted in the amputation of limbs. Here, Paré is demonstrating an important technique he introduced to tie off blood vessels after amputations. The wound was then covered with loose bandages. Previously, blood vessels were sealed using boiling oil or a cautery, causing further agony to the patient who only had alcohol or herbal remedies for pain relief. In the scene, treated soldiers are standing by a fire and a bishop blesses the surgeon’s efforts, emphasising the value of Paré's work.

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Glossary: amputation

Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

Glossary: cautery

To destroy tissue through contact with a hot implement. To remove warts, etc, or to stop small cuts bleeding.

Glossary: diorama

A model with three-dimensional objects, often sculpture, with a realistic painted background.

Glossary: gas gangrene

Death and decay of wound tissue infected by a soil-based bacteria. Toxins produced by the bacterium cause decay of connective tissue and the generation of gas.