Mark M. Ravitch was a leading pediatric surgeon and U.S. pioneer in the use of mechanical stapling devices used in gastrointestinal surgery. He was an authority on congenital hernia of the diaphragm and deformities of the chest wall. He was born in New York City in 1910, received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1934, and served as a surgeon in New York and Baltimore before his move to Pittsburgh in 1969 to become head of the Department of Surgery at Montefiore Hospital (affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh).

Dr. Ravitch was a prolific writer and his publications span the broad spectrum of his diverse interests, from pediatric surgery to hernia repair to the history of medicine. His treatises on congenital diaphragmatic hernias are considered seminal studies. His two-volume history of the American Surgical Association, A Century of Surgery, chronicles the development of surgery in the United States from 1880 to 1980.

Ravitch Ex LibrisDr. Ravitch was a well-known bibliophile who following his interest in the history of surgery amassed an excellent collection of books on hernia and general surgery. Though the main focus of his collection is hernia, the Ravitch collection documents surgery's evolution from the sixteenth into the twentieth centuries. Beginning with Selectae Observationes Chirurgicae (1598) by Wilhelm Fabricius Hildanus, these volumes tell the story of surgery's emergence as an independent branch of medical science, with the special focus on hernia.

Dr. Ravitch died in 1989 and his family donated his book collection to Falk Library in 1992.

[This text was adapted from the pamphlet from the dedication of The Mark M. Ravitch History of Surgical Collection, April 9, 1992 and a number of notes and biographical sketches of Dr. Ravitch.]

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Earliest texts


Gerard van Swieten’s The Diseases Incident to Armies: With the Method of Cure. Philadelphia 1776

Nicolas Blegny’s L’art de guerir les hernies. Paris 1676

Frederik Ruysch’s Opera omnia anatomico-medico-chirurgica. Amsterdam 1720

Search PittCat to find all the (other) books on the subject including the late 19th and early 20th century historical materials and current works from the circulating collection.

Related resources: National Library of Medicine houses an extensive archival collection of Mark Ravitch papers. Finding aid for The Mark M. Ravitch Papers, 1932-1989 is available at NLM website.