A miniaturized, endoscopically deliverable thermal cautery probe for cauterizing internal vessels. The probe is applied to tissues cold, and a large number of electric heating pulses of equal energy are then applied to an internal heating element in the probe. The probe has an internal heating element in direct thermal contact with an active heat-transfer portion that has a low heat capacity to insure quick heating and subsequent cooling, thereby adequately coagulating tissue while minimizing heat penetration and resulting tissue damage. The electrical power applied to the probe is continuously measured and is terminated when the energy delivered reaches a preset value. The number of such pulses applied to the probe (and hence the total energy delivered) may be preset while the duration of the period during which the pulses were applied is displayed. Alternatively, the duration of the period during which such pulses are applied to the probe may be preset while the number of pulses applied (and hence the total energy delivered) is displayed. The heating element for the probe is a controlled breakdown diode which has a breakdown voltage that is a function of its temperature so that the temperature can be controlled. The heating element has a resistance of greater than 0.5 ohm to provide adequate power dissipation with relatively low currents. A washing fluid, preferably flowing along the outside of the probe toward its tip, cleans blood from the tissue to be coagulated to make the source of blood more readily visible.