Denis Browne: Maverick or Master Surgeon?
The current generation of surgeons may remember Denis Browne only as an inventor of surgical instruments which few people use, an innovator of procedures condemned as inadequate, and a personality bristling with controversy: a maverick indeed. And yet this assessment belies his influence as the founder of modern paediatric surgery in the development of British surgery. Further, his innovative operations in a range of paediatric lesions were revolutionary in the context of the time. Browne was born in 1892 and educated in Australia, although his whole surgical career was in England. He had a remarkable family background; unique Australian experiences in childhood, when he commenced to display independence and individuality of spirit, through University, where he gained ‘Blues’ in tennis and shooting, to war, where he served in Gallipoli and France; and to controversies that surrounded him in his battle to establish paediatric surgery as a legitimate surgical discipline. He certainly had a prickly personality and a particular venom reserved for orthopaedic surgeons and anatomists, but his achievements may have been possible only by one possessed of such a strong and towering character.
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