Rutkow, Ira M. 1948–

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Rutkow, Ira M. 1948–

PERSONAL: Born October 13, 1948, in Newark, NJ; son of Al and Bea (Goldberg) Rutkow; married Beth Denise Greenwald, June 11, 1972; children: Lainie Wendy, Eric Ian. Education: Union College, B.S., 1970; St. Louis University, M.D., 1975; Johns Hopkins University, M.P.H., 1978, D.P.H., 1981.

ADDRESSES: Home—7 Pamela St., Marlboro, NJ 17746-1621. Office—The Hernia Center, 222 Schanck Rd., Ste. 100, Freehold, NJ 07728-2974.

CAREER: Writer, physician, educator, and medical historian. Boston City Hospital, Boston, MA, intern and resident, 1975–77; Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, MD, resident, 1977–80; New Jersey Medical School, resident in University Hospital, 1980–82, clinical professor of surgery, 1983; Hernia Center, Freehold, NJ, founder and surgical director, 1984–; University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, clinical professor of surgery.

MEMBER: American College of Surgeons, Medical Society of New Jersey.

AWARDS, HONORS: Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, 1977–78; Edwin L. Crosby Memorial fellow, American Hospital Association, 1979–80.


(Guest editor) Symposium on Surgical Health Care Delivery, Saunders (Philadelphia, PA), 1982.

The History of Surgery in the United States, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1988.

(Editor) Socioeconomics of Surgery, Mosby (St. Louis, MO), 1989.

Surgery: An Illustrated History, Mosby Year Book/Norman Pub. (St. Louis, MO), 1993.

(With Stanley B. Burns) American Surgery: An Illustrated History, Lippincott-Raven Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.

Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil-War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.


John Hooker Packard, A Manual of Minor Surgery, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1990.

Stephen Smith, Hand-Book of Surgical Operations, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1990.

William Alexander Hammond, A Treatise on Hygiene: With Special Reference to the Military Service, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1991.

Joseph Janvier Woodward, The Hospital Steward's Manual: For the Instruction of Hospital Stewards, Ward-Masters, and Attendants, in Their Several Duties, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1991.

James B. McCaw, Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1992.

William Grace, The Army Surgeon's Manual: For the Use of Medical Officers, Cadets, Chaplains, and Hospital Stewards, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1992.

Joseph Janvier Woodward, Outlines of the Chief Camp Diseases of the United States Armies: As Observed during the Present War, Norman Pub. (San Francisco, CA), 1992.

Consulting editor for surgical history, Archives of Surgery.

SIDELIGHTS: Author and practicing surgeon Ira M. Rutkow is a medical historian who is considered the "world's leading expert on the history of American surgery," as Eric D. Albright stated in Library Journal. His books concentrate primarily on the history of American surgery and on the state of surgery and medical practice during the U.S. Civil War. He is also the author of more than seventy-five technical and scientific papers in the medical field.

In Surgery: An Illustrated History, Rutkow traces the development of surgery from primitive practices in Paleolithic times to advanced twentieth-century techniques and equipment. As he describes surgical procedures from various regions of the world, he provides a sense of the cultural influences on developing surgeons around the globe. Rutkow examines the development of professionalism in surgery and how the profession evolved in Europe from practitioners who were frequently despised, to the often-ridiculed barber-surgeons who practiced bloodletting, to the prestigious specialists known today. The book also includes biographical sketches of more than 1,000 well-known and prominent surgeons who have wielded a scalpel through the ages. In many cases, portraits and illustrations of contemporary medical instruments and techniques are also included. Astrid James, writing in Lancet, concluded that "there is much here to interest the public and those involved in the care of patients, particularly surgeons."

American Surgery: An Illustrated History narrows the historical focus from the world to the United States. Beginning with surgery as it was practiced in colonial America, Rutkow's text travels chronologically through topics such as the development of anesthesia, the harsh conditions of medical treatment during the U.S. Civil War, the development of the concepts of antisepsis and asepsis, medicine in World Wars I and II, and the rise of medical specialization. He ends with a discussion of modern concepts and controversies, such as Medicare, managed care, and physician compensation. He provides "excellent biographical accounts of major participants of each era," remarked William Stoney in the British Medical Journal. Stoney concluded that "this is an outstanding book and will be the standard by which future historical collections of American surgery will be measured."

Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine offers an in-depth examination of the medical treatment available to the average Civil War soldier—treatment which was the best of its kind at the time, but which by modern standards seems brutal. Rutkow also explores a variety of "political and social changes that had significant impact upon war medicine," such as the work of the U.S. Sanitary Commission's often-thwarted attempts to establish better conditions for wounded soldiers, noted Albright in another Library Journal review. Most of Rutkow's sources come from the Union side of the battle, as Confederate resources are notably scarce. Rutkow explains how gunshot wounds often led to amputations; how the lack of antiseptic conditions meant it was more common for soldiers to die from postoperative infections than from actual battlefield wounds; and how communicable diseases spread unchecked through armies on both sides. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "an absorbing account of how American medicine was changed forever by the efforts to bring good medical care to men on the battlefields of the Civil War." A Publishers Weekly critic concluded that the book is "fast-moving and informative" and "a gritty, compelling story well-told."



British Medical Journal, April 17, 1999, William Stoney, review of American Surgery: An Illustrated History, p. 1082.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine, p. 43.

Lancet, July 2, 1994, Astrid James, review of Surgery: An Illustrated History, p. 45.

Library Journal, December, 1997, Eric D. Albright, review of American Surgery, p. 138; February 1, 2005, Eric D. Albright, review of Bleeding Blue and Gray, p. 109.

Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2005, review of Bleeding Blue and Gray, p. 164.

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Rutkow, Ira M. 1948–

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