Intended for healthcare professionals


Seymour Schwartz: surgeon, editor, cartographer, and historian

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 23 September 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3706
  1. John Illman
  1. London, UK
  1. john{at}


Credit: Carlos Ortiz/Democrat and Chronicle

The name Seymour Schwartz became synonymous with surgery after his five fellow editors of Principles of Surgery, published by McGraw Hill in 1969, voted him editor in chief. Schwartz edited the next seven editions of the seminal textbook, later re-named Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery. The first edition ran to 1850 pages and 52 chapters.

The 11th edition was published last year, when Schwartz was in his 90s. In a characteristic visionary foreword, Schwartz noted, “The ‘science of surgery’ has gained dominance over the ‘art of surgery.’ Diverse technologies have been incorporated to expedite diagnosis and improve surgical excision or repair. It is as if today’s surgeons have adopted a new language, new rules, new protocols—and anticipate new outcomes.”

In 2018 he told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, “I was happiest in the operating room. I prepared for every operation. I have an ego. And I felt I could operate as well, if not better than, most of the surgeons I was around.”


But Schwartz was much more than a leading surgeon, once described as “sharp as a tack.” He was also a …

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