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A survey of circumcision methods and instruments is presented from an evolutionary perspective. Instruments for circumcising have evolved, but not in any coherent or consistent manner. Nor, after more than 4,000 years, has any consistent (“best”) method emerged for circumcising. This underlines fundamental problems with the operation. The instruments have been fetishized along with the operation.

All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad. Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

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  1. 1.

    A picture of an 1898 hurricane lantern is at accessed July 9, 2010.

  2. 2.

    "Among the earliest surviving shears is a pair, Egyptian in origin, attributed to the Third Century B.C...." ... "Sir Flinders Petrie ascribes the development of cross-bladed shears [with a center pivot] to the First Century" (Wiss 1948) .

  3. 3.

    Devices mentioned in this article may be seen at

  4. 4.

    Ibid, p. 29.

  5. 5.

    Dunsmuir and Gordon, loc. innom.

  6. 6.

    Grossman, p. 17.

  7. 7.

    Grossman, p. 29.

  8. 8.

    Grossman p. 19.

  9. 9.

    See footnote 8

  10. 10.

    Grossman, p. 24.

  11. 11.

    Grossman, p. 21.

  12. 12.

    Grossman, p. 24.

  13. 13.

    Dunsmuir and Gordon, loc. innom.

  14. 14.

    Grossman, p. 23.

  15. 15.

    Grossman, p. 22.

  16. 16.

    Grossman, p. 20.

  17. 17.

    Grossman, p. 30.

  18. 18.

    Grossman, p. 31.

  19. 19.

    Grossman, p. 32

  20. 20.

    Grossman, p. 33.

  21. 21.

    L.G. v. Mogen Circumcision Instruments, Ltd., Civil Action File No. CV06-5864, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

  22. 22.

    Grossman, p. 34.

  23. 23.

    Grossman, p. 25.

  24. 24. (accessed January13, 2011).


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Thanks to Marilyn Milos for scanning the Grossman essay and sending it to me, to my husband, Tim, for his unfailing support, and to Circlist for alerting me to the existence of the Ross rings, and whose obsessive interest in the details of the operation saved me from having to think about it too much.

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Correspondence to Hugh Young .

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Young, H. (2013). Evolution of Circumcision Methods: Not “Just a Snip”. In: Denniston, G., Hodges, F., Milos, M. (eds) Genital Cutting: Protecting Children from Medical, Cultural, and Religious Infringements. Springer, Dordrecht.

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