The Time Travelling Operating Theatre

Time Travelling Operating Theatre 1884
Time Travelling Operating Theatre 1884

What can we learn from surgical history and can we use this knowledge to consider what the future of surgery might look like?  These are the questions we are aiming to answer by taking our Time Travelling Operating Theatre across the country as part of a Wellcome Trust-funded research project.

Imperial College London’s Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science (ICCESS) are using real clinicians working together in re-enactments of three eras of surgical history – 1884, 1984 and 2014.  These periods represent the beginnings of abdominal surgery, keyhole surgery and more recent developments such as the iKnife. The Time Travelling Operating Theatre not only immerses members of the public in a world that is usually closed to them but also demonstrates some of the cultural, social, technological and environmental changes that have occurred in surgery.

Following their trip through surgical time, the public then get the opportunity to discuss the changes they have witnessed with the participating clinicians and others including ethicists, medical defence layers and policy-makers.  The rich discussions that have come out of the experience have covered a wide-range of topics, a key one being the ethics of medicine past, present and future.

To date there have been three events (at the Science Museum, London; Royal College of Nursing, London; Thackeray Museum, Leeds) with the final event taking place at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on 10th October. The data collected from the events will aim to understand if this unusual methodology is an effective way to involve the public and patients in policy-making decisions.

For more information please visit

Sharon-Marie Weldon
Senior Research Officer
Department of Surgery and Cancer

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