Historic, but not famous

Dr. Alexander Skene, inventor of surgical instruments

Alexander Johnston Chalmers Skene (1837 – 1900) was a British gynecologist from Scotland who described what became known as Skene’s glands. He came to North America at the age of 19 to study. He began his studies in Toronto, continued in Michigan and and finally at the Long Island College Hospital (now the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center) in Brooklyn. He graduated in 1863 and began a career in the Army.

After the army he entered private practice in Brooklyn and became a Professor of Disease of Women at Long Island College Hospital. He was professor of gynecology at the Medical School of New York in 1884, and was president of the American Gynecological Society. Skene wrote over 100 medical articles and several textbooks. He contributed many surgical instruments and improved on surgical techniques. He performed the first successful operation of gastro-elytrotomy that is recorded, and also that of craniotomy, using Sims’s speculum.

Though he worked with Marion Sims, who it has been found performed gynecologic exams and surgeries on African-American women without anesthesia, Skene did not appear to be part of these experiments. A statue of him is located near Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

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