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  • Open Access
  • © 2018

Belly-Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy

Palgrave Macmillan


  • Offers a history of the establishment and development of this controversial surgical practice

  • Explores key ethical issues in nineteenth-century medicine and society

  • Provides a new analytical framework – inclusive of gender – in which surgical innovation is the conceptual focal point

Part of the book series: Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History (MBSMH)

Buying options

Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (7 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xvi
  2. Introduction

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 1-20Open Access
  3. Pathologies, Actions, Ideas

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 21-47Open Access
  4. Creating a Surgical Controversy

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 49-91Open Access
  5. Patent Concerns, Unpatentable Procedures

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 93-130Open Access
  6. The Business of Surgery

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 131-170Open Access
  7. The Afterlife of an Operation

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 171-212Open Access
  8. Conclusion

    • Sally Frampton
    Pages 213-220Open Access
  9. Back Matter

    Pages 221-267

About this book

This open access book looks at the dramatic history of ovariotomy, an operation to remove ovarian tumours first practiced in the early nineteenth century. Bold and daring, surgeons who performed it claimed to be initiating a new era of surgery by opening the abdomen. Ovariotomy soon occupied a complex position within medicine and society, as an operation which symbolised surgical progress, while also remaining at the boundaries of ethical acceptability. This book traces the operation’s innovation, from its roots in eighteenth-century pathology, through the denouncement of those who performed it as ‘belly-rippers’, to its rapid uptake in the 1880s, when ovariotomists were accused of over-operating. Throughout the century, the operation was never a hair’s breadth from controversy.


  • ovaries
  • surgery
  • medicine
  • innovation
  • doctor
  • gender
  • nineteenth century
  • ethics
  • human body
  • open access
  • abdominal surgery

Authors and Affiliations

  • Faculty of English, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    Sally Frampton

About the author

Sally Frampton is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Oxford, UK. She has previously published on surgery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and on the history of the medical press.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Belly-Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy

  • Authors: Sally Frampton

  • Series Title: Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-78610-0Published: 15 January 2019

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-78934-7Published: 30 December 2019

  • Series ISSN: 2947-9142

  • Series E-ISSN: 2947-9150

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVI, 267

  • Number of Illustrations: 5 b/w illustrations, 5 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: History of Science, Social History, History of Medicine, General Surgery, Gender Studies

Buying options

Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)