Surgery & Emotion

  • Brown, Michael (PI)

    Project Details


    This Wellcome Trust-funded Investigator Award project explored the place of emotion within the practice, politics and representation of surgery from the nineteenth century to the present day. Undergoing surgery can be an extremely emotionally troubling experience for patients. Performing surgery also makes its emotional demands on surgical operators. Despite this, the emotional dynamics of surgery have never been fully explored until now. This project sought to understand how surgeons have historically conceived, and continue to conceive, of their work and their relationships with patients in terms of feeling. Often, these relationships are thought of as being shaped principally by ‘clinical detachment’, but this project pushed beyond such clichés to explore the emotional complexities of the surgical encounter.

    The Surgery & Emotion project ran a series of professional and public-facing events in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Nursing, Science Museum and the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester. It encouraged practising surgeons and other clinical practitioners to think about the place of emotions in their working lives, brought together surgeons and members of the public to discuss the emotions associated with surgery, and disseminated historical research about emotions and surgery in civil and military realms to a range of audiences at the Wellcome Collection, National Army Museum, and other major cultural institution. Our research was even cited by the Royal College of Surgeons in their Report on the Future of Surgery.

    The Surgery & Emotion project has produced a major body of historical research including fifteen articles, a special edition of Medical Humanities and three single-authored books in press or preparation. Thanks to the Wellcome Trust, all publications directly funded by the project are available as Gold Open Access. For more details, see our project website.
    Effective start/end date1/09/1631/12/21


    • The Wellcome Trust: £628,760.00
    • The Wellcome Trust: £19,650.00


    • Surgery
    • Emotions
    • History
    • Health
    • Body