The "Dreaded Circular Room"

The surgical amphiteatre in the center of the Pine Building of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia was completed in 1804, beeing the first surgical facility of its kind in the United States. "Thirty feet high and twenty-eight feet in diameter, the amphiteatre contained an upper gallery with rows of wooden benches for students and observers, who paid one guinea for admittance to watch surgeons amputate limbs, remove tumors or set broken bones"1. In a pre-anesthesia era "there is little doubt why the room was known as the 'Dreaded Circular Room'"2.

It was in this amphiteatre that Philip Syng Physick became famous as the "father of American Surgery"3.

"The amphiteatre ceased hosting surgeries in 1868, when another, larger amphiteatre opened in another part of the hospital. The room has been a dining room for nurses and patients, a lounge for the house staff and, since 1976, when funds were raised to renovate the space, it has appeared as it did in the nineteenth century"4.

  • Photos by Sal Mangione (1-2) and Luca Borghi (3-5) ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (June 2017)


- Kristen A. Graham, A History of the Pennsylvania Hospital, The History Press, Charleston-London 2008, pp. 128

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