The History of Surgical Gloves


In 1894, William Stewart Halsted pioneered the widespread use of rubber gloves during surgery. Halsted was the first surgeon-in-chief and first professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital within the university of the same name in Baltimore. He is often called the father of American surgery and the father of surgical rubber gloves.

Early Use of Surgical Gloves

  • According to an article by Judith Tanner in the British Journal of Nursing, the first known use of surgical gloves was by a German physician carrying out a gynecological operation in 1758. The gloves were made from sheep's intestines and were intended to protect the surgeon from infection. At this time, surgeons routinely operated in their everyday clothes with no more than an already bloodstained apron over the top. In the 1840s, anatomists and pathologists began using rubber gloves when they were conducting dissections.

Vulcanization Allows Surgical Gloves to Become More Flexible

  • The rubber gloves worn by early anatomists were thick and inflexible, unsuitable for surgeons performing operations. This changed when Goodyear developed vulcanization in 1844, allowing for the development of surgical gloves which were lighter, yet also stronger and stretchier. In ,Englishman Thomas Forster, who worked for the India Rubber Works, patented surgical gloves made from vulcanized rubber.

Development of Antiseptic Leads to Greater Use of Surgical Gloves

  • Lord Lister's pioneering work at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland in the 1860s on preventing infection in post-operative wounds led to carbolic acid being used as an antiseptic in operating theatres around the world. In 1889, one nurse at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore found that constant washing of her hands and surgical instruments in carbolic acid was giving her dermatitis. To save her from having to continually expose her hands to the acid, surgeon in chief William Stewart Halsted designed and commissioned a rubber glove from the Goodyear Rubber Company.

Joseph Bloodgood Encourages the Use of Surgical Gloves

  • Joseph Bloodgood was another of the surgeons at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and one of William Stewart Halsted's assistants. He encouraged all members of the surgical team to wear the new-style, more flexible, rubber gloves. By the early 1900s, surgeons and theatre nurses were routinely wearing surgical gloves.

Fun Fact

  • William Stewart Halsted had a personal interest in the nurse who developed dermatitis as a result of too much exposure to carbolic acid. Caroline Hampton was his fiancee at the time.

Latex Surgical Gloves Now Banned at Johns Hopkins

  • By January 2008, Johns Hopkins Hospital had phased out the use of latex surgical gloves. A press release issued by their News and Information Services at that time stated that this was in response to research evidence that "roughly 6 percent of the general population and up to 15 percent of health care workers are allergic to latex." Johns Hopkins continues, of course, to use surgical gloves, but these are now made of materials that will not cause allergic reactions in patients or medical staff.

Latex or Latex-free Surgical Gloves?

  • While Johns Hopkins Hospital no longer uses surgical gloves made of latex, some surgeons and medical professionals have reservations about gloves made from other materials. As reported at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in New Orleans, some surgeons believe that latex-free surgical gloves may be more likely to perforate during operations.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit medical gloves image by sasha from dissection kit image by Steve Johnson from rubber image by Henryk Olszewski from acid image by charles taylor from operation image by Falk from surgical team during operation: working on open wo image by alma_sacra from
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • When Were Radios First Installed in Cars?

    The first radio available for public use in automobiles was the Motorola 5T-71, introduced in the early 1930s. It became a popular...

  • How to Put on Surgical Gloves

    No doubt about it, putting on surgical gloves can be a tricky situation, depending on several factors. One of the best ways...

  • Material Substitutes for Rubber

    Famous Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, was the first to use rubber in a practical application as an eraser. Since then, rubber has...

Related Searches

Check It Out

This Is the Beauty Routine of a Yelp Sales Manager

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!