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New Frontiers of Surgery

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.

Baby changing facilitiesCoach parties acceptedCredit cards accepted (no fee)Disabled toiletsEducation/study areaFacilities for groupsFacilities for educational visitsGift shopOn-site cateringPicnic siteWheelchairs availableAccepts groupsFacilities for conferencingFacilities for corporate hospitality



Near St James's Hospital,
141 Beckett Street,



See location of Thackray Medical Museum on Google mapsSee location on Google maps

Map reference: SE 318348  Lat: 53.80855 Long: -1.51817

By Road:
Leave M1 at jct 43, then M621 to jct 4. Follow signs for Harrogate and St James Hospital over River Aire at Crown Point Bridge. Get into right-hand lane. At jct go straight on (signed St James' Hospital) under bridge to major jct.

By Public Transport:
Taxi or buses (take bus routed to St James' Hospital), City centre buses include 16, 42, 50, 50A and 49 Get off the bus at the hospital and the museum entrance is next door.

Parking: with charge

Accessible by Public Transport: 2 miles from Leeds station


  • Baby changing facilitiesBaby changing facilities
  • Coach parties acceptedCoach parties accepted
  • Credit cards accepted (no fee)Credit cards accepted (no fee)
  • Disabled toiletsDisabled toilets
  • Education/study areaEducation/study area
  • Facilities for groupsFacilities for groups
  • Facilities for educational visitsFacilities for educational visits
  • Gift shopGift shop
  • On-site cateringOn-site catering
  • Picnic sitePicnic site
  • Wheelchairs availableWheelchairs available
  • Accepts groupsAccepts groups
  • Facilities for conferencingFacilities for conferencing
  • Facilities for corporate hospitalityFacilities for corporate hospitality