It was largely through the efforts of Philip Syng Physick (1816), the first professor of surgery in the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, that catgut came into general use. He carried out experiments with a wide variety of suture materials and demonstrated the absorbability of catgut. It remained for Lister (1868), however, to begin experiments on the sterilization of catgut, a study which he continued for forty years.
The main requirements for good surgical catgut have been sterility, strength, suppleness and absorbability. The great bulk of the experimental work on catgut recorded in the medical literature has been concerned with its sterility and the effect of various methods of sterilization on its tensile strength. Suppleness is largely a matter of clinical opinion, but it has also been studied in the laboratory by determining the loss of tensile strength that results from knotting.
The absorbability of catgut was