There is a rich longstanding literature examining the rise of surgery as the medical treatment of choice in the late nineteenth century. This has been added to in recent years by examination of the ways in which bodily knowledge was used as the basis of governance in industrial societies. There is likewise now a significant modern literature on exploration and colonialism. Here we link these two domains; using the examples of Africa and North America we investigate the ways in which the surgical opening of the body and the exploration and colonization of the earth were deeply related enterprises. We make this linkage in several ways: through the shared cultures of manliness and heroism, through the social history of professions, through the epistemological similarities in the objects of knowledge, and through everyday practices. We conclude that both enterprises were related colonizations, rooted in modern industrial capitalism, one of the body the other of foreign territory.