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. 1992 May;30(5):750-7.

Neurological Surgery in the Nineteenth Century: The Principles and Techniques of Ernst Von Bergmann

  • PMID: 1584389

Neurological Surgery in the Nineteenth Century: The Principles and Techniques of Ernst Von Bergmann

W C Hanigan et al. Neurosurgery. .


Born in Latvia in 1836, Ernst von Bergmann received his medical education and first academic position at the University of Dorpat in Russia. In 1866, he served as a military surgeon in the Prusso-Austrian War, followed by duty in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He was appointed to the faculty of the University of Würzburg in 1878 and 4 years later moved to the University Clinic in Berlin. As a professor and chairman of surgery, he taught until his death in 1907. Von Bergmann practiced general surgery but devoted a large part of his career to the treatment of neurological diseases. Known for his development of aseptic technique, his early military experiences directed his attention to cranial trauma and, ultimately, neurosurgery. In 1880, he authored his first textbook, which described missile ballistics and animal experiments first demonstrating the physiological response later known as "the Cushing reflex" and advocated meticulous intracranial debridement with thorough closure after trauma. Twenty years later, as senior editor of the massive System of Practical Surgery, his contributions included pediatric neurosurgery, successful treatment of abscesses and tumors, diagnostic radiography, and cerebral localization using external landmarks and the neurological examination. Revered by his students and honored by his colleagues, von Bergmann became a proponent for aggressive neurosurgical treatment. His skilled techniques, developed in parallel with accurate experimental physiology, advanced 19th century surgical progression and formed a solid framework for the advances of neurosurgical specialists.

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