… the modern Caesarean section was invented?

The year is 1881. On 25 September, a telegram from Meckesheim, located about 20 kilometres southeast of Heidelberg, is received by the professor of gynaecology, Professor Ferdinand Adolf Kehrer, saying that a woman was in labour, the general practitioner had ascertained the necessity to perform a Caesarean section, and an expert was needed. Kehrer, having only recently been appointed full professor at the gynaecological clinic, departs immediately—by train, since the automobile won’t be invented for another five years by Carl Benz. Arriving at the scene, he encounters rather humble conditions. Without further ado, the Schlusser family’s living room is turned into the delivery room. Two hanging lights, one standard lamp, several stearin candles, some linen cloths and pillows, a little table, a chair and medical instruments soaked with carbolic water—and the operation can begin.

Before Kehrer gets started, however, he convinces the mother-to-be of his new method. Instead of performing the incision from top to bottom, as has been practiced for centuries and having almost always led to the death of the mother, he wants to cut open the abdominal wall and the cervix crosswise for the first time. Emilie Schlusser gives her consent—if she at that point is already under the effects of the anaesthetic chloroform is a detail which has not been handed down.

After about one hour, the intervention is over; mother and child Emilie are in good health. Kehrer performed the first conservative-classical Caesarean section of medical history. This new operation technique as well as further achievements led to the fact that maternal mortality after Caesarean sections decreased from 80 percent back then to 0.04 per thousand in Germany today. By now, this “sectio caesarea,” as developed by Kehrer and modified by Hermann Johannes Pfannenstiel, has become the standard method. In Germany alone, today almost every third child sees the light of day with the help of this “quick delivery” method.