Cosmetic Surgery: A History
With the constant barrage of Hollywood celebrities who have, in recent years it seems really brought cosmetic surgery to the forefront of the world stage as something to enhance your appearance and correct visual flaws, we seem to forget that plastic surgery, as its inception was put into use for medical reasons in Ancient India and consequently, Italy. Lets take a look at the history of cosmetic/plastic surgery!
800 BC, India: Sushruta, arguably considered the father of surgery makes major advances in the all important fields of plastic and cataract surgery. His works alongwith his contemporary, Charak’s original Sanskrit works are then translated into Arabic and subsequently make their way into Europe.
The Italian families of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi are acclimatized to these techniques as well.
Side note: Ancient Romans & Egyptians too were significantly decently versed in performing cosmetic surgery from around the 1st Century BC (for example repairing damaged ears). Aulus Cornelius Celsus left extremely accurate anatomical descriptions.
1794: British physcists arrived in India to see rhinoplasties being performed by indigenous methods. Reports of these are published in Gentleman’s Magazine that year.
Joseph Constantine Carpue spends 20 years in India studying the local plastic surgery techniques.
1815: Carpue performs the first major milestone surgery in the Western world. Surgery however was quite dangerous, especially when performed on the neck or face at the time so it wasn’t commonly done up until the 19th/20th centuries. Anesthesia – lacking surgeries of course were profoundly painful so the bringing about of penicillin was a positive step forwards into making elective surgery a very real possibility.
1792: Chopart performs a lip procedure using a flap from the neck.
1814: Carpue successfully (again) performs a plastic surgery procedure on a British military officer who lost his nose (reconstructive rhinoplasty surgery in its early phases) to toxic effects in a mercury treatment.
1818: Carl Ferdinand von Graefe publishes a game changing book “Rhinoplastik” in which he successfully and intelligently modified the visionary Italian (and originally Indian) method of using a skin graft from the arm as opposed to using the decayed flap.
1827: The first American plastic surgeon (of note) arrives – John Peter Mettauer. That year, he performs the first ever cleft palate corrective procedure with tools he impressively designed himself.
1845: Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach writes an exemplary text on rhinoplasty “Operative Chirurgie” and essentially introduces to the world cosmetic surgery as we largely know it today: to improve the appearance of the nose through operative reconstruction. And thus is born the concept of plastic surgery as we understand it to this day.
20th Century: Harold Gillies, widely coronated the Father of Plastic Surgery, comes about during World War I from his homebase in New Zealand to London where he proactively works towards developing many of the common techniques of plastic surgery that lead to what we employ today for the very same (or similar) procedures. He does so while nursing soldiers who have suffered from disfigured facial injuries. He continues to do the same during World War II.
In fact in 1917, Walter Yeo was purportedly considered the first man to undergo cosmetic surgery performed by Sir Harold Gillies himself. He received skin flap surgery to help his war wounds.There you have it! Its fascinating to see how what we perceive of the words “plastic surgery” has dramatically changed over the years, from medical to reconstruction to cosmetic purposes. We hope you enjoyed this!