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Monday, 8 August 2011


The French general Napoleon’s private surgeon, Baron Dominique Larrey could amputate a man’s leg in 14 seconds. Despite this or possibly because of this Napoleon described him as "the most virtuous man I have ever known".

Horatio Nelson had his right arm amputated at Santa Cruz, Tenerife on board the Theseus. After his arm was removed he was left alone to recover with an opium pill and a shot of rum. Nelson was so upset by the feel of the chilly scalpel against his flesh that he demanded that all amputations performed on ships under his command be done with warm knives.

When Brig. Gen. Otis Howard had his right arm amputated after being wounded in battle, fellow Union Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny (who lost his left arm in the American-Mexican War) later remarked, "General, we will have to buy gloves together!"

The quickest leg amputation the speedy Victorian surgeon Robert Liston managed was 28 seconds. On that occasion, when the use of ether as an anaesthetic was still a novelty he was operating on a butler Frederick Churchill. When the ether was put under the butler’s nose, however, he gurgled and immediately went limp and Liston removed the leg and cauterised the wound in record time. When Churchill came round he asked “When are we going to begin”? Tragically in achieving this feat Liston accidentally cut off two of his assistant’s fingers, who later died of gangrene poisoning.

Mexican General Santa Anna had a state funeral for his amputated leg.

Canadian athlete and amputee, Terry Fox, stricken with cancer, ran across Canada to raise awareness for Cancer research. He ran an astounding 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) before having to stop due to his ailments.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID, is a condition where a person feels an overwhelming desire to become an amputee. One of the first purported cases was recorded in a medical textbook from 1785. It told of an Englishman who held a surgeon at gunpoint until the surgeon amputated his leg.

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