©Wellcome Library, London

Surgeons were frequently ridiculed by physicians for being ‘altogether unlearned' and practising surgery ‘more by blynde experience then by any science ...' Learned surgeons believed that theory was necessary but not to the point of supplanting practical experience. The reduction of fractures and dislocations were a case in point. In his surgical textbook, the Dutch surgeon, Paul Barbette (d. before 1675), did not trouble to describe the technique since ‘it is better learnt by the frequent view of Practice than by Reading'.

Woodcut from Hieronymus Brunschwig (1450-1512). The noble experyence of the vertuous handy work of surgeri. Peter Treveris, London 1525.