Introduction: In a world where mechanisation and automation have led to a devaluation of skilled manual work, and where only certain press and publicity media doubt the superiority of the mind, the following operating-theatre dialogue is refreshing: Surgeon: The surgeon's hands are his finest instruments. Physician: Anyway, he can't lose them in the abdomen. The surgeon praises his hands and the work they enable him to do. The physician expresses his doubts about the reasoning powers that are responsible for this work. Such a dialogue invites discussion on the subject of the hand, and also provides me with an opportunity for making a few remarks about the relation between surgeon and physician. As you will all know, it was usual until recently to make a distinction between physicians and surgeons, based on the supposition that the two were birds of a different plumage. The physicians were supposed to be heirs of the age-old venerable school of Aesculapios, while the surgeons were descended from the less respectable ranks of the barbers and lithotomists. However, history teaches us that the link between physician and surgeon is closer than is often thought.