Father of Surgery

This post is in continuation to the previous one titled Three stages of scientific discovery.

At this age, we have an abundance of information on the origin of plastic surgery or surgery in general. In fact, I do not even need to give you a reference to ancient Indian scientists who adequately documented surgical procedures, including cataract surgeries. Charaka and Sushruta, two famous doctors, earned great fame in their fields, even before the birth of some civilizations who are currently claiming the discovery!

The knowledge they discovered through the trial-and-error method was transferred from generation to generation through both inheritances and formal education. For example, the nasal reconstruction procedure (seems) to be a standard routine during medieval India. But it looks like it was totally unknown to the west during then. And you know how all these validations work? Until it appears in one of the western publications, the legitimacy can be questioned freely and even denied.

Luckily for Sushruta, the certification was issued after 2000 years of his death. It came in the form of a report published in 1794 in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which describes the surgery of one Cowasjee.

Cowasjee was employed as a soldier in the British army. Unfortunately, he was one of those captured by Tipu Sultan’s Army during the Third Anglo-Mysore War. Unlike modern India, where even caught terrorists get to eat Biriyanis in lock-up, the medieval world wasn’t so kind. The soldier was, among others, were severely mutilated.

Lieutenant of Cowasjee probably wanted him to fight another battle for them and make himself useful. This led to shipping him to Pune to a cobler whose name appeared in word-of-mouth endorsements. Remember this, he was a cobler and not a doctor or a surgeon. Stitching dead goat leather is one thing and fixing live human skin is an entirely different thing. Apparently, to everyone’s surprise, they were not that different during 1794. The doctor set his nose with the skin removed from his forehead in the presence of awestruck British scribes, soldiers and career bureaucrats.

Nasal reconstructions had been practised as a relatively routine procedure in India for centuries. This was driven by the common use of nasal mutilation in India as a means of punishment or private vengeance for various forms of immorality. The procedures are described in two well-known early Indian medical works, the Suśruta Saṃhitā, thought to date to the middle of the first millennium BCE, and the Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā, believed to date from the sixth century CE*. By the nineteenth century the technique had been handed down through separate families in three different parts of India.

Rhinoplasty by transfer of skin flaps from other body parts had also been practiced in Italy in the sixteenth century, most famously by the Bolognese surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599). The Indian technique probably spread to Italy via Arabic scholarship – it is probable that the Suśruta Saṃhitā was translated into Arabic in the later 8th century CE on the orders of the Vizier Yahya ibn Khalid.

– a couple of paragraphs from a blog post named Britain’s first nose job from British Library.

It is adequately registered through various sources that Arab enthusiast had translated procedures discovered by Sushruta and Charaka’s. So, any Arab surgeon a Millennium later had ready-made SOP to start with.

Statue of SushrutaRACS, Melbourne through wikipedia

Now, remember, we Indians, at least some of us, are still hold the mindset of “Nothing good came out of this sub-continent, we have invaders to thank for whatever we are”!

For these reasons , some of our history textbooks still point out to an Arab as the father of a Surgery!!

Three stages of scientific discovery

There are three stages of scientific discovery: first, people deny it is true, then they deny it is important. Finally, they credit the wrong person” – Billy Bryson.

This quote is often credited to Alexander von Humboldt as well. That is an irony to the quote itself. If that were accurate, then we have an example right in the quote’s attribution it originally intended to call out.

Anyways. The quote is abundantly clear on the sad truth behind the crediting the discoveries and inventions are concerned. Although somewhat exaggerated, It seems broadly accurate, especially with the innovations that came out of India. Be it number system, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, Food, Yoga, Meditation and even board games, all went through the three stages quoted above. Some of these are presently struggling at the third stage – even after taking great pain of producing the burden of proof.

Stage 1 is being called a conspiracy theorist for having made any claim on the original discovery. I have written about it in a post named Conspiracy Theories, Russell’s teapot, and Breast Tax. Stage 2 is calling the discovery snake oil or placebo. I have briefly touched upon it in my post-Ayurveda, Clinical Trials & Capitalism. Let us talk about stage 3 – the wrong attribution.

There is a formal name for this third stage, it is called Stigler’s law of eponymy. It says that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Although it sounds like a gross exaggeration, you will be surprised to know how many scientific discoveries are wrongly credited to the scientist who discovered it at a later point in time or did not discover it at all. I am picking only Indian ones for now.

One example was Jagadish Chandra Bose, who was not credited for Radio wave communication instead of awarded it to an Italian Marconi. Among many others, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995) on his contribution of Black holes! Get this:

At the age of just 20, on his journey to Cambridge, he came with the idea that is now called the Chandrasekhar limit: the concept that above a certain mass, electron degeneracy pressure in the core of a white dwarf star is not enough to counterbalance the gravitational self-attraction of the star. Above the Chandrasekhar limit, stars explode or collapse into a neutron star or black hole.

But when Chandrasekhar presented his findings at the Royal Astronomical Society in London in 1935, he was publicly ridiculed by Sir Arthur Eddington, a world-renowned physicist who had until then acted as a mentor to him. The clash was between an internationally famous physicist and a young Indian student in a hostile environment. It set acceptance of Chandrasekhar’s idea, and by consequence, his career, back by years, and ultimately led Chandrasekhar to leave Cambridge in the hope of finding a better welcome elsewhere. In 1972, the first black hole was discovered, and Chandrasekhar’s theory was finally proven correct.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995)

[Two Paragraphs and the image from the oxford-royale article Scientists Who Didn’t Get the Credit They Deserved ]

Traditionally, the Indian formal education system and mainstream media are designed to make us feel an inferior culture and did not contribute anything to the scientific world. Also, apparently, we have the west to thank for anything we have, which they brought to India on their civilization mission. Any attempt to dispute to this will face immediate and overwhelming ridicule in academic circles. This is how I grew up listening to how big losers we are with no hopes.

Things have changed, and truth had to come out eventually anyway. Now, get this, wikipedia a dedicated page for an extensive list of discoveries and inventions which finally attributed to Indians, after awarding it to a bunch of merchants, travelers and colonizers for centuries.

To be continued…

The lobster debate, Social Hierarchy and Jordan B Peterson

While reading the latest book I picked up, I came across this fascinating and fantastic trivia about lobsters’ behaviors. I assure you that you too will be surprised to learn about it. It is a very cool analogy and the correlation between the Human kingdom and Animal ones. This can be utilized to reason out a few characteristics such as male dominance, the effect of antidepressants and the social hierarchy, including even patriarchy. It goes like this:

  1. Like any animal kingdom species, lobsters get into disputes and fights to register male dominance. As usual, the battle is to determine who is the best suitable mate to carry the gene forward. As decided by binary results, the lobster that won the brawl will flex and get bigger physically, advertising his victory. The looser will shrink physically.
  2. Suppose you inject antidepressant, like serotonin, to the lost lobster. It stretches and gets bigger and ready to fight again. By the way, the same hormone work works on the human as well,
  3. An interesting point to note is that these neurochemical behaviors exist in the animal kingdom for 2.5 million years. i.e., Even before trees became into existence.
  4. A defeated human, such as with PTSD, will have the hippocampus shrink and the amygdala grow. A hippocampus can grow back with the help of anti-depressants. However, amygdala never grows back. Similarly, a defeated lobster will have its brain dissolved, and a new one grows back but not of the same one before.
  5. Basically, the argument is that the animal kingdom, including humans, organizes itself in the inevitably aligned social hierarchy, which is evolutionary and driven by neurologist chemical reactions. Not due to a political system such as capitalism. In other words, the human hierarchical organization in the political system has the evolutionary design to blame, not the other way around.
Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels.com

Apparently, this conclusion is based on a study on lobster, collective behaviors, social hierarchy etc. And the books where I picked up is “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos ” by Jordan B. Peterson. I will not be able to validate the theory as I am not qualified enough to do this. But he is a well-published author, Professor, clinical psychologist and public intellectual. I am gonna have to go with him this time.

Most rules of these books are controversial now, often unnecessarily. Jordan and his book are receiving end of American university students’ anger and social figures leaning left. Most noise comes from those who have not read it, instead of having their knowledge based on 140 characters of Twitter. Understandably the book is not an easy read. The technical terms, psychological reasoning etc., make it a laborious read. Unless you made up your mind to complete it, it is not gonna finish itself.

I recommend this to you if you are still interested, take it as a fresh perspective on the latest sets of social debates.

FOMO – Fear of missing out

The bathtub was invented in 1850, and the telephone in 1875. Had you been living in 1850, you could have sat in the bathtub for 25 years without the darn phone ringing. ~ Abraham Lincoln


Don’t believe everything you read on the internet – also Abraham Lincoln.

Let’s discuss a very relevant and important topic called FOMO – the fear of missing out. Please take a quick survey and you will be clear on what it is:

  1. How many times have you slipped into the bathroom while rushing half naked back to the living room to receive a relentlessly ringing phone, probably a spam caller? Also, as part of the lesson learnt from the previous incident, do you now take your phone to the bathroom?
  2. Do you set the alarm to wake you up at sharp 12 am just to wish your college roommate or a distant cousin a happy birthday?
  3. Do you browse through every combo offer of Domino’s app on their discount on Saturday pizza? Do you compare each option at various other vendor sites and end up ordering a topping that you don’t even like?
  4. Do you have at least 5 social media apps notifying you that your ex-ex-ex colleague went to Ooty and wore a dress with a new purple shade?
  5. Have you bought a new iPhone who’s only significant improvement from the previous version is a screen larger by 0.003 inches?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are suffering from a FOMO. Evidently, it’s a highly contagious social epidemic with severity ranging from depression all the way to walking dead zombies. It is a pretty severe matter fueled by social media and directly proportional to the number of people befriended on those platforms.

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

These are my thoughts on is how you can fix it.

  1. Make liberal use of the ‘do not disturb’ mode. The world is not ending tomorrow. Whatever grabbed your attention can wait. If that call were about the world is ending tomorrow, then would you rather know it today?
  2. Do not multitask. It is overrated.
  3. Do not let any app to chime your phone, except maybe for the caller app, no one else.
  4. Use your nature-given eyes to enjoy concerts and events, not the phone. Prioritize your life over the recorded history of your life.

There are more tips and suggestions from experts. Please go through 10 ways to overcome FOMO and overcome FOMO

Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion is one of the most beautiful concepts when it is applied to its real sense. It has a straightforward and unambiguous meaning. An organization, a team or even a civilization can no longer afford to exclude the different voices, different from traditionally theirs. If they do, they compromise on width, depth, efficiency, perspective, and completeness of the state they are trying to achieve.

For example, take a team consisting of a perfectionist and a taskmaster. A taskmaster can complete 95% tasks seldom haphazardly, but with paramount efficiency and productivity. A perfectionist will take it from here. He surely will take his own sweet time. Still, he will ensure that the job is comprehensively and conclusively completed in a form normal human being can comprehend. Imagine a team constituting with only one sort of them? Team taskmaster can deliver tomorrow afternoon with many bugs. A perfectionist will provide you with a perfect solution, but only by the subsequent quarter.

Even with this simple truth is widely misinterpreted, often deliberately.

  1. The ask amazingly simple. Include the diversity into the team and follow a democratic process. It generally gets confused and leads to giving power of veto, virtually an authoritarian decision making.
  2. Most definitions list out the race, gender, religion, and caste etc. All these correct, but this list should only be kept in the appendix. This list will keep in growing and evolving in all its probability. We cannot dilute the spirit of it with specifics.
  3. This goes without saying, freedom of expression holds the paramount value of any teams. There should be a channel for everyone to speak their heart out.

Let us discuss what it’s not.

  1. It is not a vehicle to correct historical injustice. If you give D&I the time to evolve, it will address all your grievances in this regard. Unfortunately, some of the torchbearers use D&I as a tool for overcompensating or even underrepresenting a group of people.
  2. D&I is a progressive concept on itself, but you cannot form a team entirely made of progressives, which fails the entire purpose. This applies to any groups part of a D&I team.

A couple of examples.

Exhibit 1. This is an image of the editorial board of a once-popular online newsmagazine. They often accused of torchbearers of progressiveness in the modern internet world. No wonder their articles are monotonous and predictable.

Source : Mic.com

Exhibit 2. This is an image of Late-night talk show hosts. I have seen episodes of most of them. They all dress, look, talk, laugh, joke and express opinions about if they all came out of a mould. They are irritatingly predictable.

Source www.vanityfair.com

Let me know your thoughts about this, do write your reviews in the comments section.