Skip to main content
Palgrave Macmillan

Belly-Rippers, Surgical Innovation and the Ovariotomy Controversy

  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2018

You have full access to this open access Book


  • 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)

Buy print copy

Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Table of contents (7 chapters)


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.

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

Publish with us