Listed among the first settlers are a few individuals who probably would have used this tool to pull teeth in the colony. Surgeons William Wilkinson and Thomas Wotton came to Jamestown with barber Thomas Couper on the first three ships in May 1607. The surgeon Post Ginnat arrived in January 1608, and surgeon Anthony Bagnall also was at James Fort in its first year. Feeling thankful for modern dentistry? It is unlikely that these teeth with cavities were pulled using a tool like this, but tooth problems were pervasive in the seventeenth century, and are not entirely uncommon finds on archaeological sites like Jamestown.
Around the year 1200, clergymen were banned from performing medical or surgical healing, a practice which they had previously been trusted with. Barbers who were already skilled in the use of razors became responsible for surgeries, and times of war in the medieval and post-medieval British world necessitated skilled surgeons. The unfortunate but plentiful supply of injuries acquired by soldiers on the battlefield served as a learning and training opportunity for the burgeoning medical field.
In London, trade guilds for barbers and surgeons began in the 14th century, and they were formally united in 1540 by King Henry VIII as the Company of Barber-Surgeons. Because they cut into the body, barber-surgeons were seen as craftsmen — below the social rank of physicians who received university training in philosophy, theology, the arts, and sciences. Barber-surgeons were occasionally illiterate, and they operated without anesthesia!