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Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

MANUEL MERKOFER

How Medicine Innovates: The Case of Microneurosurgery in the Second Half of the 20th Century (1950–1980)


Compared to other surgical disciplines, operating microscopes were introduced to neurosurgical theaters relatively late. The advent of »microneurosurgery« can be considered as the most significant change in the discipline in the second half of the 20th century. In consequence, surgical procedures extended significantly and coincided with particularly far-reaching changes within a medical subdiscipline for the time period. Microneurosurgery not only incited many new operative ideas but also lead to a rearrangement of surgery rooms, redesign of surgical instruments and neurosurgical training, as well as the use of new visualization techniques exploring the clinical and scientific potentials of microscopic photo- and videography.

Already in the early 1970s, the neurosurgical clinic in Zurich routinely applied microsurgical techniques asserting a leading role in establishing microneurosurgery as a new operative standard. The project is based on diverse historical sources, including scientific publications, collected medical objects, university, and industry archival materials. Inspired by a timely reading of actor-network-theory, the project analyzes the role of various actors involved, such as scientific groups, state actors, fellow clinical experts at the university hospital, industrial partners or public health debaters. The project provides a case study for medical innovation in the second half of the 20th century, examining how various actors related to generate innovation or dealt with risks present in any real medical innovation. It also aims to figure out how the establishment of new technologies and the generation of new knowledge correlate.