After our last post about dramatic surgical styles, it’s hard not to think of Alexis Carrel, the man who really put the “theater” in “operating theater.” As divine as vintage white surgical gowns might be, the diabolical black shrouds preferred by Dr. Carrel surely have them beat.
Carrel, a French surgeon and Nobel Prize winner working in America in the 1920s and 1930s, believed that black aided the mental focus of his surgical team as well as visually highlighting any dust that might appear in the operating room. He therefore not only insisted his team dress head to toe in black, but even had the walls painted that color. The ominous aura did not go unnoticed by journalists covering Carrel’s surgical experiments, especially since that work involved keeping human organs alive outside the body — heady s stuff for an era fascinated with the mad scientists of pulp novels and early horror movies.
Appearing on the cover of Time Magazine only two months after the release of The Bride of Frankenstein, Carrel was treated both as a sinister curiosity and beloved celebrity, the latter in no small part due to his friendship with aviator Charles Lindbergh, who not only who assisted Carrel with the engineering of a perfusion pump necessary for the doctor’s transplant experiments but also shared some of Carrel’s more esoteric perspectives on shaping humanity’s future. These included the possibility of physical immortality and Carrel’s most unfortunate legacy — advocacy of eugenics.
More on that curious friendship can be found in David M. Friedman’s The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever, the source of the picture above (via Depressed Metabolism.