'America’s First Brain Surgeon' Served During Civil War and World War I
By Janet Aker
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DIVDS) web site
Army Maj. (Dr.) William Williams Keen Jr. was a pioneering military doctor whose career spanned surgical duty on the bloody battlefields of the American Civil War through influential research work during World War I.
Once known as "America's first brain surgeon," Keen helped propel numerous advances in medicine. He played a key role in the birth of bacteriology, neurology, use of antisepsis, sterile surgical techniques, brain surgery, and the breakthrough discovery that insects carry and spread diseases.
With a unique perspective after serving in two cataclysmic wars, Keen wrote a 1918 paperJournal article, Military Surgery in 1861 and in 1918 on JSTOR's website called "Military Surgery in 1861 and in 1918."
In it, he marveled at the knowledge gained in the field of military medicine during his 50 years of service and expressed his excitement for what was to come in the next 50 years and beyond, according to staff at the National Museum of Health and MedicineNational Museum of Health and Medicine website in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In his influential paperJournal article, Military Surgery in 1861 and in 1918 on JSTOR's website, Keen lamented the countless deaths during the Civil War that could have been avoided with better military field surgical techniques and surgeons with advanced knowledge.
"Between these two dates is a veritable chasm of ignorance which we can only really appreciate when we peer over its edge and discover how broad and deep it is," he wrote.
"Clinical observation has done much, but research and chiefly experimental research, has done far more."
"Research has not yet ceased to give us better and better methods of coping with disease and death, and – thank God – it will never cease so long as disease and death continue to afflict the human race," he wrote.
Keen's work played an important role in the significant improvements in battlefield survival rates during conflicts in the 20th century.
Read the entire article on the DIVDS web site.
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