Tidbit Tuesdays: The Shared History of Childbirth and Chainsaws
(Content warning: Yes, it’s what it sounds like.)
At first I didn’t even realize that this (offensive and poorly written) post that appeared on my G+ stream was a repost from the Science on G+ community to the Woodworking community, as I didn’t draw the immediate connection. It is a very interesting tidbit I thought merited a slot on the Tidbit line up.
Most of us don’t give a lot of thought to the origins of things we see around us… there is just too much going on and a lot of things seem like common sense. After all, it just seems natural to assume that the chainsaw was invented for, you know, cutting things like wood… right?
Nope. It started out as a tool known as an osteotome, used for removing bone (and still used to this day, particularly in dental applications) and to perform symphyiotomies (also known as Gigli’s Operation), the cutting of a woman’s pelvic ligaments to assist in childbirth (other knives and saws were also used such as Galbiati’s knife, Gigli’s saw, scapels, and others). Multiple versions of chain osteotomes were developed in the 18th and 19th century, so the exact history and credit of the invention is disputed.
Reference to symphysiotomy published in 1894. (Edit: Added to clarify, the above is from “The Medical Times and Register, Volumes 27-28.”)
John Aitken’s work creating a chain saw for symphysiotomies is referenced heavily referenced, it should be noted it was what Aitken referred to as a “flexible knife” or “flexible saw.” (EDIT: Added to clarify, the above embed is Aitken’s “Principles of Midwifery or Puerperal Medicine”, 3rd Edition published in 1786.)
In the developed world, symphysiotomies have been largely replaced with cesarean sections but the practice continues to this day.