New Frontiers of Surgery

This exhibition showcases the transformation of surgical procedures since the mid-1800s, largely thanks to the introduction of general anaesthetic and antiseptics.
The first public operation on a patient made unconscious with anaesthetic took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1842. However, survival rates didn’t improve until the 1870s, when Joseph Lister invented a spray that killed germs by covering both the patient and the surgeon in a fine mist of carbolic acid.
Death rates from infection then plummeted and surgeons could attempt more ambitious operations.
These advances paved the way for modern procedures such as organ transplants, which have transformed many people’s lives. Today, surgeons can transplant a wide range of organs including the cornea, liver, heart, heart valves, pancreas, kidneys, skin and bone marrow.
Other innovations include laser and keyhole surgery, which reduce the risks and complications of surgery even further, and microsurgery that allows delicate operations to be performed using microscopes. For example, the thread used in cornea transplants is finer than a human hair.
You’ll be amazed at how far we’ve come since the days when unfortunate patients had to endure medical procedures without the benefit of anaesthetics or antiseptics

Exhibitions and events

Leeds 1842

Permanent exhibition

The sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian street in Leeds will transport you back in time to 1842 and we’ll introduce you to a range of characters who lived there at the time.   Queen...

Health Choices

Permanent exhibition

In Victorian times there was a cure for everything – at least, that’s what many of the quacks and chemists of the time claimed!    This exhibition explores the choices on offer...

Disease in Retreat

Permanent exhibition

Disease in Retreat is a great antidote to our crowded and disease-ridden Victorian street! Here you can find out how scientific discoveries gradually led to a greater understanding of disease and a...

Life Zone

Permanent exhibition

Younger visitors love exploring Life Zone!   Fun, educational and interactive, kids have a great time finding their way around the colourful, hands-on exhibits and learning more about how their...

Fantastic Plastic

Permanent exhibition

What scent should a medical face mask have? Which material would you choose to make a replacement hip? Come and learn from the experts!   Today, we take plastic for granted, but it plays a key...

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Activities from this museum

School visits

The Thackray Medical Museum opens its doors to 20,000 school students every...

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