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The way forward can frequently be found by going back and retracing paths already trod, and by recognising that the successes and failures of past eras can serve as lessons for the future.
Aesculap sees the Surgery Museum Asclepius as a medium for directly experiencing the history of medical technology, using illustrations from the company’s own development. In accordance with the company’s philosophy, the Museum provides another building block along the way to a learning organisation. As such it is a valuable addition to the work of the Aesculap Academy, which is dedicated to promoting ongoing exchange between scientific medical research, medical practice and innovation in medical technology. Combining an appreciation for tradition with a rigorous commitment to continuous improvement in human medical care is absolutely fundamental to Aesculap’s company culture.
The Museum from Aesculap
Aesculap had already created a smaller museum in the company's administration building in 1979, but this had to be closed in 1992 owing to pressure on space. In 2001, a worthy location for the Surgery Museum Asclepius was found in the former Aesculap post building. The architectural style of this building, which dates from 1905/06, reflects the transition from the "Gründerzeit" era – the years of rapid industrial expansion in Germany after 1871 – to Jugendstil or art nouveau at the turn of the century. It thus recalls the first boom period of the company and retains an aura of the pioneering business spirit of the Wilhelminian Empire from which Aesculap emerged.
The Asclepius Surgery Museum is divided into three sections. One is dedicated to the general history of surgery, the second contains a comprehensive collection of surgical instruments illustrating the importance of Aesculap as a manufacturer of medical technology products, and the third records the history of the company from its foundation in 1867.
The exhibition is arranged over three floors with a total area of 540 m2.
The museum tour begins with an explicit reference to Hippocrates, the real founding father of western medicine. His thinking still forms the ethical basis of the medical profession and is illustrated here through excerpts from his collection of aphorisms. Some of his maxims – which are just as relevant today as they ever have been – are captured on transparent cubes displayed as "philosophical cargo" on a metaphorical sailing ship. This abstract portrayal of a sailing ship not only represents the lifelong travels of the itinerant doctor Hippocrates, but also symbolises the dissemination of his teaching throughout the western world and ultimately across the globe.
A multi-vision presentation illustrates the life of this important physician of antiquity and is in tune with the museum's overall theme. This glimpse into the early days of medicine is continued in the next exhibition room, where the emergence of the Aesculap trade mark and its intrinsic link to antique mythology – from the Greek god of healing Asclepius to the Roman Aesculap – is represented
The tour continues into the central exhibition room of the museum with a large step forward into modern times, where the focus is on the development of medicine at the end of the 19th century under the ground-breaking influence of asepsis, anaesthetics and radiography. These new techniques pathed the way for modern surgery and also contributed to Aesculap's breakthrough.
A "walk-around" operation scenario simulating an abdominal surgical intervention set in an auditorium of the period demonstrates the importance of anaesthetics and sterile instrument preparation. Two interactive enquiry screens provide comprehensive information on these topics.
Finally a field hospital scene illustrates how a leg amputation may have been carried out during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. Against this backdrop, selected military instrumentation sets from the Aesculap collection are exhibited, and these undoubtedly rank among the most important exhibits in medical and cultural history terms. They offer the viewer a fascinating insight into the now almost forgotten origins of invasive surgery.
However, the centre of attention in this part of the museum is the modern instrumentation used in individual surgical disciplines, ranging from neurosurgery, ENT and ophthamology and encompassing general surgery, endoscopy, anatomy and physiology, through to gynaecology and obstetrics. Orthopaedic prosthetics and trauma products are displayed in an adjacent room. A special room is dedicated to dental and the formerly important production of syringes.
The last stop in the museum tour brings together the important written testaments to the company's history: pattern books, catalogues, valuable monographs and bibliophile editions from Aesculap's library. An the "Authors' Cabinet" also lists the achievements of famous surgeons who have lent their names to important and well-known instruments.
As a final point of interest, the visitor can test his or her specialist knowledge in trying to identify unusual products on the original puzzle wall.
Born in Bergen/Rügen (D), died in Abbazia
Billroth performed the first ever gastrectomy in 1881 on a female patient with stomach cancer. His technique entered history as the "Billroth I Operation" and was followed four years later by the "Billroth II Operation". He was the first to perform a resection of the oesophagus and the pylorus and also undertook the total removal of the larynx.
Born in Königsberg, died in Berlin
Dieffenbach specialised very early on in plastic surgery, especially rhinoplasty. As senior consultant in the surgical department of the Berlin Charité he directed his interest towards subcutaneous operations such as tenotomy and other orthopaedic complaints. He also carried out research on blood transfusion, stuttering and squints.
Born in New York, died in Baltimore
Halsted is regarded as the inventor of conduction and low spinal anaesthesia. He developed the first rubber surgical gloves and made important contributions to intestinal, liver, goitre and thoracic surgery. Halsted's suture and Halsted's operation, extended radical surgery for cancer of the mammary gland, bear his name.
Born in Frankfurt/M, died in Bornum
Heister made his reputation as a surgeon and scholar in Altdorf and Helmstedt. He is regarded as the founder of scientific surgery in Germany. The 12,000 books in his private library bear witness to his learning. He did not discover anything radically new, but various surgical instruments can be traced back to him and bear his name.
Born in Bern, died in Bern
Kocher is regarded throughout the world as the pioneer of thyroid surgery. He standardised many surgical techniques, for example the "collar incision" or "Kocher's bow incision" on the knee. He was also famous for his treatment of hip luxation and inguinal hernias. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1909.
Born in Paddingsbüttel/Hannover, died in Wiesbaden
The famous German war surgeon gave great service to traditional surgery and to the treatment of gunshot fractures and joint resections, but also to uranoplasty, cheiloplasty and rhinoplasty, among many other areas. Langenbeck is also regarded as the founder of experimental surgery.
Born in Upton/Essex, died in Walmer/Kent
Lister made intensive studies of Louis Pasteur's writings on disinfection. He invented an apparatus for spraying carbolic acid to destroy germs and soaked his instruments in the same solution. In 1865 he performed the first ever operation in Europe under germ-free conditions – modern, antiseptic surgery is born.
Born in Cernowitz/Bukowina, died in Breslau
Von Mikulicz actively supported Semmelweis's demands for antiseptic and aseptic measures. He also developed a clamp to hold the peritoneum, worked on gastroscopy and oesophagoscopy and refined various abdominal surgery techniques previously conceived by Billroth.
Born in Châteaudun/Eure-et-Loir, died in Paris
In 1862, Péan developed the so-called Péan Clamp, an artery forceps for clamping off bleeding vessels. Péan undertook the first ovariotomy in Europe, decisively developing the operating technique in ovarian surgery. He also popularised the removal of the uterus and the fragmentation of tumours in the uterus.
Born in Györ/Ungarn, died in Györ/Ungarn
Hümér Hültl invented the first suturing machine using wire clamps in gastro-intestinal surgery in 1907. Von Petz succeeded in eradicating all the disadvantages of Hültl's stapler and constructing the "Petz", which has been produced in Tuttlingen since 1923 and used worldwide. To "petz" means to apply the gastro-intestinal stapling machine.
Born in Bremen, died in Berlin
Sauerbach achieved fame with his epoch-making invention of the hypobaric chamber for operations on the chest, but he also gave important new impetus to heart, oesophagus and stomach surgery. The Sauerbruch artifical arm and amputation stump canalisation are methods he devised to control a prosthesis with the muscles in the stump.
Born in Schivelbein/Ostpommern, died in Berlin
Virchow's areas of activity are simply vast. His greatest achievement was the development of cellular pathology, but he also rendered outstanding services to anthropology, archaeology and social medicine. In the field of pathology he investigated leukaemia, thrombosis, embolism and infection, syphilis and much more.
Born in Leipzig, died in Jena
Volkmann was a passionate advocate of antiseptics. He also developed new operating techniques and devoted his attention to surgery of the joints and extremities and to research into cancer. Volkmann's contracture, Volkmann's triangle and various instruments named after him bear witness to his influence.
Born in Mainz, died in Frankfurt/M
Bozzini laid the foundation for modern endoscopy. He was the first to design and build a self-contained instrument with light source and mechanics to illuminate the interior cavities and spaces of the living body. However, the recognition of the medical world eluded him, and his light conductor was only later acknowledged as the first laryngoscope.
Born in Bessungen, died in Oberried
As Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Freiburg, Hegar was from 1864 onwards the author of important works on uterine surgery techniques, colporrhaphy, pregnancy diagnosis and childbed fever infection. He wrote the first textbook on surgical diagnostic investigation and designed a needle holder and pins for widening the cervical canal.
Born in Berlin, died in Berlin
Assisted by Wilhelm Deicke and Josef Leiter, Nitze invented the first apparatus combining optics, light source and water cooling system in catheter form. Nitze was also the first person to use an Edison light bulb in a cystoscope in 1886. Josef Leiter then embarked alone on serial production of the first endoscopes.
Born in Zeist/Utrecht, died in Utrecht
Snellen wrote extensive works in his specialist area of ophthamology: on astigmatism, glaucoma, inflammations, diseases of the retina and conjunctiva, and other eye complaints. He invented ophthalmetry, a system for examining eyesight , and devoted great attention to the calculation of spectacle lenses.
Born in Graz, died in Vienna
Wertheim gave his name to Wertheim's operation - radical uterine surgery with abdominal access and removal of the womb together with its appendages, connective tissue and lymph nodes. He also improved vaginal operative techniques and made valuable contributions to obstetrics.
Born in Cleveland/Ohio, died in New Haven/Connecticut
Cushing was the author of numerous monographs on brain surgery and developed the surgical applications of local anaesthesia. His work on the pituitary gland met with international acclaim, and his research into tumours on the auditory nerve and in the brain made him famous.
Born in Finkenheerd/Preussen, died in Berlin
Graefe's most fundamental area of activity was weak sight with no organic damage to the eye. He recognised the inflammation of the visual nerves as the cause for amblyopia and the connection between brain tumours and the so-called choked disc or papilloedema. He was also successful in strabismus surgery and iridectomy in glaucoma cases.
Born in Kensington, died in Amara/Mesopotamien
As a professor of pathology and clinical medicine, Horsley was particularly concerned with the function of the thyroid gland and brain localisation. He introduced the use of thyroid extracts for the treatment of myxoedema, and performed the first operation on a tumour of the spinal cord in 1887. He also made great progress in the surgical treatment of the central nerve system.
Born in Ofen/Budapest , died in Vienna
Semmelweis discovered the cause of childbed fever in an infection with putrefactive bacteria from dead bodies, these bacteria being transported from the autopsy department via the puerperium ward into the delivery rooms. Following this discovery, he successfully introduced the practice of washing the hands in a chlorinated lime solution. Thanks to Semmelweis, hygiene was introduced into operating theatres around the world.
Born in Kley/Dortmund, died in Cologne
Tönnis is considered a pioneer and father of neurosurgery in Germany. He wrote over 300 papers on neurosurgery and brain research, including vascular malformations and vascular tumors of the brain, surgical treatment of cervical-vertebral syndrome, and treatment of pituitary adenomas.
Born in Schramberg, died in Glockenthal/Switzerland
After serving an apprenticeship in his uncle Johann G. Heine's famous workshops, Heine combined in his person the skills of the mechanic and the physician, being master of both the file and the knife in equal measure. In 1824 he began to develop the osteotome, which he brought to public attention in 1830. His attempts to regenerate bone through protective treatment of the periosteum had far-reaching implications.
Born in Breslau, died in Heidelberg
Kirschner performed the first successful Trendelenburg's operation to remove a pulmonary embolism. This made him internationally famous. He also developed a new method for forming an artificial oesophagus and a procedure for opening the knee joint. At the same time he was joint editor of almost all the surgical journals of his day.
Born in Zwickau, died in Flensburg
Küntscher invented the elastic intramedullary nail to close fractures from the medullary cavity. He also developed the flexible reamer to open up the medullary cavity, the interior oscillatory saw and the so-called interlocking nail, a detensor for treating comminuted fractures.
|1867||Formation of the company by Gottfried Jetter.|
|1887||The two brothers Karl Christian and Wilhelm Scheerer become equal partners.|
|1889||Snake staff with crown is registered as trademark.|
|1893||Formation of subsidiaries in New York, London, Paris, Constantinople, Buenos Aires and Tokyo follows shortly.|
|1895||Transformation of the company into a corporation.|
|1899||Registration of the brand name AESCULAP, construction of a new plant.|
|1915-1923||Generous extension of the manufacturing plants.|
|1925-1929||Rapid growth, export share achieved the maximum of 73%.|
|1930-1946||Difficult times due to world economic crisis, wartime economy and occupation.|
|1950-1960||Struggle for economic survival.|
|1966||Lowest level of number of people employed at AESCULAP.|
|1967-1971||Economic recovery, new products, increase of capital stock.|
|1976||B. Braun AG acquires a majority shareholding.|
|1977-1990||Formation of subsidiaries in different countries.|
|1988||Renaming the company in AESCULAP AG.|
|1995||Opening of the AESCULAPIUM.|
|1998||Incorporation of Aesculap into the B. Braun company as the AESCULAP Division.|
|2001||Opening of the Benchmark Factory.|
|2007||AESCULAP's turnover exceeded Euro 1 Billion for the first time.|
|2008||Extension of the Benchmark Factory, new building of the Logistic Centre.|
|2014||Opening of the multipurpose factory building opening of the multipurpose factory building.|
|2015||Opening of the Innovation Factory.|
|2017||Opening of the event staff restaurant after reconstruction of the old forge and 150th anniversary of Aesculap.|
After completing his apprenticeship as a cutler and working as a journeyman in the major European centres for instrument manufacture, Gottfried Jetter (1838-1903) opened a small surgical instrument maker’s workshop in Tuttlingen in 1867. He was very successful, mainly because he quickly started to produce instrument series en masse, whilst his competitors were still crafting small numbers of instruments by hand. Gottfried Jetter expanded his production facilities and increased his workforce in rapid succession. By 1878 he already had 120 employees, and when ill health forced him to retire from his business activities in 1890, he had as many as 440.
With his commercial training financed by his brother-in-law Gottfried Jetter, Karl Christian Scheerer (1857-1938) took over the commercial management of the firm in 1877. His brother Wilhelm was in charge of the technical side of the business until 1904, after which Karl Christian became the sole director of the company.
The rapid growth of the firm required a correspondingly high level of investment in machinery and buildings. However, it became increasingly difficult to raise enough capital for this as a family business, and it was necessary to change the company structure. Converting the firm into a public limited company and floating it on the stock market in 1895 brought in fresh capital to allow the vigorous expansion process to continue.
Karl Christian Scheerer visited customers all over the world, opened company branches on important sites from Berlin to New York, and successfully steered the company through the First World War and the period of inflation that followed. The small Tuttlingen instrument manufacturer quickly became the largest producer of surgical instruments in the world. “Kommerzienrat“ Scheerer remained the determining influence on the company until 1930.
The 1st world war, the world economic crisis and the 2nd world war leave deep traces at Aesculap. The occupation of plant and machinery precipitated a long stagnation phase.
The number of people employed at Aesculap sank to its lowest level in 1966, after which the company’s fortunes began to recover. In 1971, the capital stock was raised for the first time since 1933 from DM 4.3m to DM 6.5m. Aesculap reacted to the increasing specialization within surgery by developing new products for cardio-vascular surgery, arthroscopy and micro-surgery, as well as hip joint prostheses.
In 1977, Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Ungethüm arrived at Aesculap, initially as a Deputy Board Member. He became a full Member of the Board in 1979 and was appointed Chairman in 1983. In 1996, Prof. Ungethüm also became a Member of the Board of B. Braun Melsungen AG and was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Board in the same year. Two years later, Aesculap AG & Co. KG was incorporated into the B. Braun company as the Aesculap Division.
Aesculap’s fortune continued to rise. From 1995 onwards a series of major, trendsetting building programmes was successfully initiated, beginning with the AESCULAPIUM and owing much to Prof. Ungethüm’s broad vision.
In 2007 Aesculap’s turnover exceeded Euro 1bn for the first time, and that of the entire B. Braun Group Euro 3.5bn. The Benchmark Factory was extended and the new Logistics Centre built in 2008.
Another milestone followed in 2014 with the opening of a multipurpose factory building. In 2015, the Innovation Factory was opened and in 2017 the conversion of the old forge to the event staff restaurant was completed and the 150th anniversary of Aesculap was celebrated.