America's war on cancer? With 600,000 Americans dying of the disease each year, we're still a long way from declaring victory. But doctors have come a very long way in their abilities to detect and treat cancer - as these 19th Century photos make abundantly clear. They appear courtesy of New York ophthalmologist Dr. Stanley B. Burns, whose collection of early medical photography is one of the world's largest.
Until the mid-1800s, there was no anesthesia. Patients endured horrific pain, and surgeons' reputations depended upon the speed with which they could perform operations. The best could amputate an arm in one minute, a leg in three. For the photograph shown here, taken in the winter of 1846, doctors gathered at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to demonstrate the first surgical procedure involving the anesthetic sulfuric ether.