EAU History Office: new projects call for collaboration

06 December 2010

During its annual fall meeting History Office of the EAU discussed a number of issues related to Europe’s current historical research in urology and identified areas of prospective studies. The meeting took place on 12-14 October 2010 in Leuven, Belgium, and was organized by Prof. Guy Bogaert from Leuven and Dr. Johan Mattelaer from Kortrijk, who brought together many urologists and other specialists involved in the work of the EAU History Office.

The working meeting of the office was accompanied by a symposium on the history of urology, which included a series of presentations dedicated to urology in various European countries, as well as research on the work of outstanding persons who – in various times and countries– contributed to the development of this speciality.

The role of some of these scientist and surgeons was discussed in the lecture “Lithotomists at the Dawn of the United States” by Prof. Rainer Engel, from Linthicum, USA, who included in his presentation the biographies of Dr. John Clark, Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, Dr. Robert Peter and others. The presentation gave insights into the working practices and customs of the time, and revealed some interesting precedents, such as a one of the earliest lawsuits for malpractice regarding a urological procedure.

Continuing the subject, Dr. Dirk Mattelaer then presented his research on “Lithotomists and their Ex Libris”, uncovering the beautiful illustrations which crowed the library collections of many famous lithotomy practitioners of the 17th-18th centuries.

Among other presentations are those given by Prof. Guy Bogaert (“The History of Paediatric Urology in Europe”), Prof. Frans Debruyne (“The Greats Who Made the EAU”), Dr. Amrith Rao (“The History of the illustrated art of Uroscopy”), Dr. Fritz Moll (“The History of Vasectomy: a small urologic procedure but with remarkable aspects”) as well as Dr. Johan Mattelaer (“De Urinis tractatus duo by Henry Joseph Rega”) and Erik Felderhof (“The History of Syphilis”). Some of these studies will be published as full-text articles in the 18th volume of De Historia Urologiae Europaeae.

Two presentations received special attention and will be picked up by the EAU History Office as long-term projects. The first research, dedicated to “Urology under National Socialism” has to date been carried out by the research group of the German Urological Society, the DGU. Presented by Prof. Dirk Schultheiss, Chairman of the EAU History Office, the results of this research pointed to some interesting patterns, both the way urology was practised during this difficult period and the fate of many German urologists with Jewish roots. The research is still in progress, but the preliminary results already point to the need to widen the scope of this undertaking and expand the investigation beyond the borders of Germany.

According to the results of the research, 237 urologists (27%) practising in Germany before the onset of National Socialism were of Jewish origin and only 5 of them survived the regime while staying in the country. The rest either emigrated or were deported; several cases of suicide were also documented. To date the study has accumulated a large amount of biographical data and now moves to the next stage where collaboration from countries other than Germany is needed.

“We are now in search for urologists and historians from various European countries, as well as the USA and the Middle East, who would be interested to take part in this study, and look into the fate of urologists who emigrated from Germany,” said Prof. D. Schultheiss. “We would also like to broaden the contexts of this search and examine the life and the working conditions of Jewish urologists in the 1930s-1940s, outside of Germany.”

The second project, which received an enthusiastic response from the working group of the History Office, was presented by Prof. Peter Thompson, UK. During his speech Prof. Thompson discussed the results of a project which was carried out by a group of British urologists – “Recording history- the living witness programme”. This study is an initiative which aims to gather and publish extensive in-depth interviews with urologists who influenced the development of urology as a medical specialty four or five decades ago. In his update on the project, Prof. Thompson presented various details about the scientific approach used to document personal memoirs, interviewing techniques and the results of several interviews conducted to date – with Profs. John Blandy, John Wickham, Richard Turner-Warwick and Sir David Innes Williams.

“We believe that it is vital to create similar initiatives in all European countries,” commented Prof. Schultheiss. “Certainly, we will need a standardized approach to this programme, in order to create a European “library” of such memoirs and to make sure that the quality of interviews remains high across the board of this initiative.” The initiative will help to map the landscape of urological developments of the past, shedding light on the “human” factor behind these advances.

“The EAU History Office will be working to streamline, promote and integrate this programme into the activities of various national research groups interested in the history of urology,” he added. “We really hope that many enthusiastic urologists from all over Europe will join the “Living Witness” initiative”.

If you would like to take part in either of the running EAU History Office initiatives (“Urology under National Socialism” and “The Living Witness Programme”) please contact Prof. Dirk Schultheiss at dirk.schultheiss@urologie-giessen.de.