Prologue - Society of Laparoscopic & Robotic Surgeons


Taking on the subject of the history of endoscopy can be a most confounding undertaking, for its development has been shaped by an often inscrutable entanglement of paradoxical forces, making the story one which nearly defies analysis. All manner of social, economic, and cultural influences have at one time or another been implicated in the endoscope’s development. Still other theories abound to explain the “vicious cycles” between acceptance and resistance that so plagued the endoscope’s history. Not simply a story of science then, the endoscope itself seems to have taken on meaning more closely achieving that of allegorical significance.

Cast in such symbolic undertones, pinning down an accurate interpretation of the endoscope’s history is therefore a task fraught with complexity. From the outset then, I begin by acknowledging that this glimpse into the past is only one interpretation of the history of gynecologic endoscopy, one that may fall somewhat short of obtaining a perfected understanding. Of course too, no brief historical account could do justice to the countless individuals whose sometimes unrecognized efforts proved so crucial for endoscopy’s progress. Despite such constraints, we have attempted to cast our net of analysis as broadly as possible, taking care to illuminate in particular contested histories that have been hitherto greatly misunderstood or altogether unexplored. Special attention has also been given to analyzing changes in surgical traditions, most especially the rise of videolaparoscopy and the extent to which this departure from orthodoxy served to so radically redefine the entire field of surgery.

We have striven as well to provide the most accurate research as possible, taking care to extensively cross-reference all sources, seeking out archival documentation whenever possible, and investigating more fully secondary sources so often overlooked. Through this vigorous research we have indeed come across multiple discrepancies within the historical records. In such cases, we offered for the reader multiple perspectives into these contested histories so that a more balanced understanding could be achieved.

Despite these many difficulties complicating its history, exploring the endoscope’s development has nevertheless been an extremely important undertaking; for the real story behind endoscopy is, above all, one that truly reflects the glory of the human spirit. It symbolizes our shared humanistic experience of struggling between the exhaustive extremes of dreaming and doubting. Just as importantly too, the story of endoscopy serves as a source of continued inspiration for all of us within the medical community, for it demonstrates that dreaming for a better way can pay off and that individual efforts can and do make a difference in driving forward profound transformations within science and society.