Perhaps in no other branch of medicine are practitioners so conservative—and so radical—as in surgery. But even in this field, Owen H. Wangensteen, MD, PhD, 80 years old and long of the University of Minnesota, is an exception.
Leading a life more activity-filled and arduous than that of many is a pattern begun in his early years. Wangensteen was the son of a Minnesota farmer, a flinty Norwegian immigrant, whose farm his son wished one day to work himself. He soon became accustomed to the harsh rigors of frugal farm life in a motherless family—early rising, hard work, and assiduity. His mother had died of tuberculosis when he was 7 years old. (Two childhood teachers helped fill this gap; he still visits the grave of one.)
On the farm, Wangensteen liked growing things, liked caring for sick animals. When he was a high school junior, his father had a group