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In the early Christen era barbers became assistants to the clergy, who, on sacrilegious grounds, were not allowed to do the surgery of those days. The barbers did blood-letting. Later they pulled teeth, and for centuries this act comprised the whole art of dentistry. Later on, barbers also administered herbs and other forms of medications. For more than a thousand years they were known in history as barber-surgeons.

It was the custom of the barber-surgeon to use a white cloth bandage to stop bleeding on the arm of a person after blood-letting operation. This blood stained bandage was then hung up to dry. As time went on, the hanging, of blood stained bandage became recognized as the emblem of the barber-surgeon's profession. Still later the original emblem was replaced by a wooden pole of white and red stripes. This symbol is today's barber pole, and it is universally used as the sign of a barber shop.

Barber-surgeons formed their first organization in France in 1096 A.D. Soon after this the first formal school of surgery was established in Paris by the barber-surgeons.

In the early years of the twelfth century a guild of surgeons was organized from elements within the ranks of the barber-surgeons. The members of the guild of surgeons applied themselves to research and study of medicines and drugs in efforts to find new methods of healing.

Barber-surgeons were medical practitioners in medieval Europe who, unlike many doctors of the time, performed surgery, often on the war wounded. Barber-surgeons would normally learn their trade as an apprentice to a more experienced colleague. Many would have no formal learning, and were often illiterate.

In England barbers and surgeons originally had separate guilds, but these were merged by Henry VIII in 1540 as the United Barber-Surgeons Company. However, the two professions were beginning to separate. Surgery was establishing itself as a profession, helped by men such as the French surgeon Ambroise Paré, whose work raised the professional status of surgery. Increasingly, barbers were forbidden to carry out any surgical procedures except for teeth-pulling and bloodletting.

As time went on, medicine continued to advance through science and research, and it greatly overshadowed the ancient and dying practice of blood-letting. the barber-surgeons' medical practice dwindled in importance and repute in the light of advancing science, and finally in 1745, the two professions were separated by King George II, who established the London College of Surgeons. By this time surgeons were university educated.

Scope

The aim of this project is to group barber-surgeons together who practiced before 1745. A barber whose practice began after 1745 should go in the Barber project.

A surgeon who practiced after 1745 should also go in a separate project which is yet to come.

Links:

this project is in HistoryLink 
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