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J Obstet Gynaecol Br Emp. 1960 Dec;67(6):1017-34.

Clitoridectomy -- the disastrous downfall of Isaac Baker Brown, F.R.C.S. (1867).



The investigation of the circumstances surrounding the downfall of the surgeon Baker Brown is reviewed. In March 1866 Brown's book "The Curability of Certain Forms of Insanity, Epilepsy, Catalepsy, and Hysteria in Females" was published. Brown's thesis presented in this volume was that nervous affections complicating diseases of the female genitalia were the direct result of "peripheral excitement of the pudic nerve" or masturbation. Brown maintained that this excitement gave rise to disease which could be divided into 8 stages -- hysteria, spinal irritation, epileptoid fits or hysterical epilepsy, cataleptic fits, epileptic fits, idiocy, mania, death -- the 8th stage being arrived at, by gradations, more or less distinct, directly from the 1st stage. The book was harshly criticized by the editor of the "British Medical Journal." Brown proposed excision of the clitoris and nymphae as a cure of epilepsy in females. Brown's success as a bold and courageous operator, which raised him to an important position in the field, caused extreme jealousy among his rivals. By involving himself, however sincerely, with the highly controversial subject of clitoridectomy progress in ovariotomy was considerably slowed for a considerable period. Although his character and shortcomings remain open to speculation, there is little question that he was an acknowledged leader in ovariotomy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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