Modern brain surgery, 1890s-style (1893)

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Possibilities of surgery

The advance in scientific knowledge is a wonderful thing, and nothing in it is more wonderful than the development of modern brain surgery.

A few years ago, a rupture of a blood vessel in the membranes of the brain was sufficient to produce death, but the great surgeons of today have no fear of such a result. It is a simple matter of trephining the skull at the injured point, letting out the extravasted blood and presto, consciousness returns and the patient lives.

Does not this suggest infinite possibilities in the matter of mental improvement? Why cannot the skillful surgeon operate upon the skull in such a manner as to supply nature’s defects?

It is supposed that idiocy is the result of a lack of proportion between the brain and the skull. Consequently, if the skull can be sufficiently enlarged to prevent overcrowding of the brain, the difficulty is at once removed. Suppose that a man is deficient in any particular mental quality. Call in the phrenologist and the surgeon, hold a consultation, have a deft incision here, remove a strip of cranium there, and the lack is no longer existent.

When this subject is properly studied, the ancient joke about the rich man who told his son’s tutor, when he complained that the boy had “no capacity,” to “buy him one” will lose its point, and the veriest idiot may find a capacity purchasable if he have money enough.

It is even possible, is it not, that Dr Johnson spoke more wisely than he knew when he remarked that it required a surgical operation to get a joke through a Scotsman’s head was an unconscious prophet of the cerebral surgery of the future.

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