Department of Plastic Surgery, University Hospital Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands
Until the outbreak of the Second World War, there was a very considerable German influence on the development of medicine in Holland. This was particularly evident in the field of surgery where in Utrecht, for example, the Chair of Surgery was successively occupied by three of Billroth’s pupils from Vienna. The first of these incumbents was Salzer (1890–1893); the second, Freiherr Von Einelsbert (1893–1896); and the third, Narath (1896–1906). During these times, the average Dutch medical students’ bookshelves would have been largely filled with German textbooks.
The appointment of Otto Lanz to the Chair of Surgery in Amsterdam in 1902 was no exception to this trend for his education had been decidedly Germanic. Lanz was born in Steffisburg in Switzerland in 1865 and later studied at the Universities of Geneva, Bern, Basle and Leipzig. He completed his surgical training under the renowned Theodor Kocher (1841–1917) in Bern, and it was in this city that he practised for 8 years before moving to Holland.
At the age of 36, the bearded and wild-eyed Lanz arrived in Amsterdam. There were two chairs in general surgery in that city, and the occupants could hardly be said to have harboured affection for one another. Despite his good scientific background, Lanz was not welcomed with any great enthusiasm.
He began making his mark by introducing ether anaesthesia in place of the more unreliable laughing gas and made it known that there was no substitute for anything but the most rigorous aseptic techniques. His apprenticeship in Bern rendered him a master in the field of thyroid surgery, and he was especially interested in the prostate and the treatment of appendicitis. Lanz’s point, though not nowadays well known, was once in certain schools the popular equivalent of McBurney’s point. His publications of several discoveries which were to have an influence on the development of plastic surgery have perhaps been somewhat neglected, at least in recent times.