On the 100th Anniversary of Sterile Catgut Kuhn: Franz Kuhn (1866–1929) and the Epistemology of Catgut Sterilization

Dietz, Ulrich A.; Kehl, Franz; Hamelmann, Wulf; Weißer, Christoph
December 2007
World Journal of Surgery;Dec2007, Vol. 31 Issue 12, p2275
Academic Journal
The long road to effective catgut sterilization began with the work of Lord Joseph Lister (1867) and did not end until 40 years later. At the end of the nineteenth century dozens of different techniques were used to “sterilize” catgut, by immersing the cord in a cold chemical solution, by exposing it to steam, or by a combination of the two techniques, yet none of these approaches offered the ultimate solution. One of the many physicians working on the catgut problem at that time was the German surgeon Franz Kuhn (1866–1929), best known as a pioneer of intubation anesthesia. This review offers a brief biographical sketch of Kuhn’s life and career on the occasion of the centenary of Sterile Catgut Kuhn. The goal of the present study is to describe several landmarks in the development of the catgut sterilization method. To explain this process, two approaches are taken: first, an analysis to see whether the character traits of the typical surgeon at that time provided the soil in which innovation could thrive, and second, an epistemological examination of the conceptual models for the attainment of knowledge current at that time. Perspectives for the future are explored in light of the “imperative of responsibility” of Hans Jonas.


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