Orthopedic Timeline


Ancient Orthopedics (Stone Age)

Approx. 8700 BCE - Approx. 2000 BCE

While the evidence is limited, the practice of orthopedics dates back to the primitive man.The union of fractures in fair alignment has also been observed, which emphasizes the efficacy of nonoperative orthopedics and suggests the early use of splints and rehabilitation practices. The Sohoma Indians made a splint of fresh rawhide that had been soaked in water.

Ancient Egypt

Approx. 2830 BCE - Approx. 300 BCE

The ancient Egyptians seemed to have carried on the practices of splinting. Splinted specimens were discovered during the Hearst Egyptian Expedition in 1903. More specifically, these specimens included a femur and forearm and dated to approximately 300 BCE. Other examples of splints made of bamboo and reed padded with linen have been found on mummies as well. Similarly, crutches were also used by this civilization, as depicted on a carving made on an Egyptian tomb in 2830 BCE.

Greek and Romans

Approx. 800 BCE - Approx. 27 BCE

The Corpus Hippocrates was compiled, which is a Greek text on medicine. It is named for Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and it contains text that applies specifically to the field of orthopedic surgery. For example, this text discuses shoulder dislocations and describes various reduction maneuvers. the Hippocratic method is still used for reducing anterior shoulder dislocations, and its description can be found in several modern orthopedic texts, including recent articles. he Corpus Hippocrates also describes the correction of clubfoot deformity, and the treatment of infected open fractures with pitch cerate and wine compresses. During the Roman period, another Greek surgeon by the name of Galen described the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.e served as a gladiatorial surgeon in Rome, and today, he is considered to be the father of sports medicine. In the Roman period, amputations were also performed, and primitive prostheses were developed

The Middle Ages

Approx. 500 AD - 1500 AD

There was relatively little progress in the study of medicine for a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire. This stagnation was predominantly due to the early Christian Church inhibiting freedom of thought and observation, as well as prohibiting human dissection and the study of anatomy. The first medical school in Europe was established in Salerno, Italy, during the ninth century. Later on, the University of Bologna became one of the first academic institutions to offer hands-on surgical training. Eventually, medicine began to separate from the Church, most likely due to an increase in the complexity of medical theories, the rise of secular universities, and an increase in medical knowledge from Eastern and Middle-Eastern groups.

The Renaissance and the Foundations of Modern Orthopedics

Approx. 1600 - Approx. 1900

The scientific study of anatomy gained prominence during this time, especially due to the work done by great artists, such as Leonardo Di Vinci.Collectively, these scholar and surgeons of this era provided a strong foundation for the field of modern orthopedics.Additional discoveries by Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Ignaz Semmelweis relating to antisepsis appeared to revolutionize the surgical management of orthopedic injuries.After a period of rapid expansion of the field of orthopedics, and following the Renaissance, many hospitals were built focusing on the sick and disabled, which solidified orthopedics’ position as a major medical specialty. For example, in 1863, James Knight founded the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled in New York City. Several additional orthopedic institutions were formed, including the New York Orthopedic Dispensary in 1886 and Hospital for Deformities and Joint Diseases in 1917. Orthopedic surgery residency programs also began to be developed in the late 1800s. More specifically, Virgil Gibney at Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled began the first orthopedic training program in the United States in 1888. Young doctors in this program trained for 1 year as junior assistant, senior assistant, and house surgeon, and began to be known as resident doctors.

Edwin Smith Papyrus


This document is thought to have been composed by Imhotep, a prominent Egyptian physician, astrologer, architect, and politician, and it specifically categorizes diseases and treatments. Many scholars recognize this medical document as the oldest surgical textbook. his document describes the reduction of a dislocated mandible, signs of spinal or vertebral injuries, description of torticollis, and the treatment of fractures such as clavicle fractures.

Modern Era

Approx. 1900 - Present

In the 20th century, rapid development continued to better control infections as well as develop and introduce novel technology. For example, the invention of x-ray in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen improved our ability to diagnose and manage orthopedic conditions ranging from fractures to avascular necrosis of the femoral head to osteoarthritis. Spinal surgery also developed rapidly with Russell Hibbs describing a technique for spinal fusion at the New York Orthopedic Hospital.Similarly, the World Wars served as a catalyst in the development of the subspecialty of orthopedic trauma, with increasing attention placed on open wounds and proficiency with amputations, internal fixation, and wound care. In 1942, Austin Moore performed the first metal hip arthroplasty, and the field of joint replacement was subsequently advanced by the work of Sir John Charnley in the 1960s.