LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ANZJSurg.com
Selected letters will be published on ANZJSurg.com before they appear in the print journal Dear Editor, Re: Alexis Carrel: the good, the bad, the ugly Glen Benveniste has written an excellent article on Alexis Carrel.1 Glen pointed out that Alexis was one of five surgeons to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. I would like to point out that 10 surgeons have been awarded the Nobel Prize.2 Besides Alexis Carrel, Theodore Kocker, Frederick Banting, Werner Forssman and Charles Huggins, the other surgically trained doctors to be awarded are Joseph Murray, Robert Barany, Allvar Gullstrand, Alexander Fleming and Walter Hess. Joseph Murray, a plastic surgeon, was awarded the prize in 1990 for his work in organ transplantation and in performing the world’s first kidney transplant in 1954. Robert Barany was awarded the prize in 1914 for his work on the vestibular apparatus. Alllvar Gullstrand received the prize in 1911 for his contribution to ophthalmology. Alexander Fleming received the award in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin. Fleming trained as a surgeon and received his FRCS but went on to become a bacteriologist. I have little doubt that his surgical training and exposure contributed to his discovery of penicillin with Adelaide-born Howard Florey. Hence, we can claim his as one of our own. Walter Hess was awarded in 1949 for developing the prefrontal lobotomy, a procedure long discredited and abandoned. References 1. Benveniste GL. Alexis Carrel: the good, the bad, the ugly. ANZ J. Surg. 2013; 83: 609–11. 2. Available from URL: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/ laureates/
Michael J. McCleave Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia doi: 10.1111/ans.12468
search of the 204, would no doubt reveal many more surgeons, none of whom received their award working as surgeons: perhaps, it would be simpler to identify those who were awarded their prize for surgical endeavours. In 1966, Sourkes published a review of the Prize winners from 1901 to 1965.3 The awards were classified by ‘Topic’: no less than 18 topics are listed, one being, ‘surgery and transplantation problems’. The prize has been awarded to one, two or three recipients in any given year: in 2013, there were three; in 1949, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was divided equally between Walter Rudolf Hess ‘for his discovery of the functional organization of the interbrain as a coordinator of the activities of the internal organs’ and Antonio Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz ‘for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses’. One prize, two recipients, two very different ‘topics’, ‘physiology’ and ‘mental disease’. By 1966, only three such ‘surgical’ awards had been recognized: those of Kocher (1909), Carrel (1912) and Burnet and Medawar in 1960; to these can now be added the 1990 award to Joseph E Murray: a total of five recipients in the combined fields of surgery and transplantation. Joseph Murray’s biographical notes recalled that Sir Peter Medawar, 1960 Nobel Laureate in ‘surgery’, commented, after visiting an early renal transplant patient, that it was the first time he had been in a hospital ward!4 The prize in 1945, with the award classification of ‘pharmacology and chemotherapy’, went to Sir Alexander Fleming: qualifying MBBS in 1906, he immediately began working in Sir Almroth Wright’s inoculation department, and despite obtaining the FRCS in 1909, remained in the field of bacteriology until his death in 1955.5 In discussing whether or not surgeons have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, one has to differentiate between surgeons being awarded this prize for their work in surgery, and erstwhile surgically qualified persons, receiving a Nobel Prize, in fields, other than surgery.
Dear Editor, References Response to Re: Alexis Carrel: the good, the bad, the ugly Glen Benveniste states that five surgeons have been awarded the Nobel Prize in the field of Physiology or Medicine;1 Michael McCleave contends that 10 surgeons have been awarded this prize.2 Comments such as these, where no less than 204 persons have been awarded this prize since 1901, are fraught with risk: an in-depth © 2014 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
1. Benveniste GL. Alexis Carrel: the good, the bad, the ugly. ANZ J. Surg. 2013; 83: 609–11. 2. McCleave MJ. Re: Alexis Carrel: the good, the bad, the ugly. ANZ J. Surg. 2014; 84: 97. 3. Sourkes TL. Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology 1901– 1965. The Life of Science Library 45. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1967. 4. Murray JE. Biographical. [Cited 22 Oct 2013.] Available from URL: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1990/ murray-bio.html
ANZ J Surg 84 (2014) 97–100