The History of Plastic Surgery

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The Early Years

The history of plastic surgery began more than 4,000 years ago. Although reconstructive surgery was used in India in 800 BC, the history of plastic surgery moved very slowly for thousands of years, especially in European medicine. (Eastern medicine’s history of plastic surgery is much more lengthy, with skin grafts and reconstruction described in several books on the history of plastic surgery.)

Mankind’s essential nature entails self-improvement. Without the individual’s pursuit of learning and enlightenment, peace with his or her neighbors and more efficient means to work, progress would stop. Because human beings have always sought self-fulfillment through self-improvement, plastic surgery — improving and restoring form and function — may be one of the world’s oldest healing arts.




In the late 19th century the American medical community embraced reconstructive surgery and the history of plastic surgery in the United States began. The first major American surgeon to make his mark in the history of plastic surgery was Dr. John Peter Mettauer, who performed the first cleft palate operation in the North American history of plastic surgery in 1827 with instruments he designed himself.

Advancements continued into the 20th century. As in ancient Egypt and India, war presented the opportunity for surgeons to perfect their techniques, as they strove to repair the bodies of injured soldiers.

Today, reconstructive surgery continues to progress and thrive. Although the spotlight of popular media may be cast more frequently on aesthetic plastic surgery, advancements reconstructive surgery are being made at an ever-increasing pace.

War played a huge role in the history of plastic surgery. World War I presented physicians with scores of severe facial wounds and burns, changing the history of plastic surgery. Modern weapons caused types and severity of injuries that were unprecedented in the history of plastic surgery. Some of the greatest medical talent devoted themselves fully both to exploring the history of plastic surgery and creating new techniques to treat men maimed by the war. Aesthetic surgery took its place in the history of plastic surgery at around this time, as surgeons fully realized the influence of appearances on individual success.

The history of plastic surgery in America owes much to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS). In the history of plastic surgery, no such organization for American plastic surgeons had existed prior to 1931. Important steps in American history of plastic surgery took place due to the work of this institution, such as recognition of the progress and history of plastic surgery by the American Board of Surgeons. ASPRS members created the first qualifying exam in the history of plastic surgery in the US, and a number of other organizations for promoting the future and history of plastic surgery sprang up in the years that followed.

The modern, and more well-known, history of plastic surgery begins in the 1960s and 70s. Plastic surgeons were contributing to the history of plastic surgery in a number of areas, including a Surgeon General, and a Nobel Prize winner. The past few decades in the history of plastic surgery have brought enormous advances in treatment and awareness among the public. As the history of plastic surgery continues to be written, the ways to improve form and function will continue to expand.

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  1. One Response to “The History of Plastic Surgery”

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