Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Surgical instruments: objects of beauty and dread

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 13 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5620
  1. Hutan Ashrafian, clinical lecturer in surgery, Imperial College London,
  2. Ara Darzi, professor of surgery, Imperial College London
  1. Correspondence to: H Ashrafian h.ashrafian{at}

This photoexhibition depicting surgeons and their tools fascinates Ara Darzi and Hutan Ashrafian

The relationship between doctors and their instruments reflects an intimate bond, forged over millenniums, that is most obvious in the surgical specialties. The ancient obsidian scalpels of the late bronze age in the ancient Near East (4000 years ago), ancient Egypt, and Mesoamerica are associated with functional facets of patient care in addition to a ritual element of divine art. The latest surgical robots (such as Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci System), may seem superficially different but take similar inspiration from artistic design to portray exactitude, precision, and safety. And the next generation of surgical robots are derived from the art of nature, for example, flexible access, bioinspired platforms derive from the shape of a snake.

The current exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons of England explores this interaction between surgeons and their tools. The …

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