We tend to think of aesthetic plastic surgery as a modern phenomenon, pioneered by the rich, famous and infamous, now enthusiastically embraced by “average” people worldwide. But it has its origins in the mists of time. We’ve compiled 50 fascinating facts about the history of cosmetic surgery throughout the eons.
Plastic is derived from the Greek plasikos, meaning “to mould.” The term surgery is derived from the Greek kheirourgos, from kheir – “hand” + ergon – “work”.
The first recorded “nose job” is found in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts (600 B.C.).
In the first century B.C., Romans were practicing various forms of plastic surgery to repair noses, eyes, lips, and teeth. Roman physician Cornelius Celsus (c. 25 B.C.-A.D. 50) also describes circumcision reversal and male breast reduction.
Scar removal was a popular procedure in ancient Rome, particularly on the back which were marks of shame because they suggested a man had turned his back in battle or had been whipped like a slave
During the Middle Ages, plastic surgery was typically deemed pagan and sinful because the spilling of blood and the power the surgeon had over the body were akin to magic.
During the Renaissance, surgeons took skin grafts from donors such as a neighbor’s pig. They were confused when the new nose would shrivel up and fall off and concluded the flesh was “sympathetic” – the graft died when its original owner died. Many plastic surgeries in the early Renaissance were performed in barbershops.
Italian Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1546-1599) is widely considered the “father of modern plastic surgery.” His textbook De curtorum chirugiau noted the need for plastic surgery due to duels and street fights, as well as a pervasive outbreak of syphilis which destroyed the nose.
Tagliacozzi was an atypical plastic surgeon during the Renaissance because he did not view illness, such as the syphilitic nose, as divine punishment. Instead he used the vocabulary of humanists such as Giovanni Francesco Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) to justify his surgical innovations as autonomous self-remaking.
In 1794, British surgeons witnessed an Indian bricklayer repair the nose of a British cattle driver who had his nose and hand cut off. British surgeons imported the procedure back to northern Europe where interest rapidly grew.
Karl Ferdinand Graefe (1787-1840) coined the term “plastic surgery” in his 1818 text Rhinoplastik. He also attempted to remove the moral stigma associated with nose reconstruction by giving the procedure a classical name-rhinoplasty.
Surgeons who served in WWI established the American Association of Plastic Surgery in 1931 and helped curtail unregulated plastic surgery. They are the largest plastic surgery specialty organisation in the world.
WWII saw plastic surgery techniques emerge that included rebuilding entire limbs, extensive skin grafts, microsurgery, antibodies, and increased knowledge about tissue health.
Silicone breast implants grew in popularity in the 1960s. Showgirls would inject their breasts with liquid silicone, a substance initially used in Japan in WWI to plump out legs withered by polio. Unfortunately, they could suffer dangerous side effects, such as amputation and infection.
In Nazi Germany, some forms of reconstructive surgery were mandated to enable the ugly soldiers to become a “real” soldier.
Benito Mussolini’s WWII Italy used plastic surgery to increase the performance of military officers, such as correcting drooping eyelids.
The first modern breast augmentation took place on November 24, 1893, in Heidelberg, Germany, by Vincent Czerny. His patient was a 41-year-old singer who had a growth in her breast removed. Luckily, the patient had a growth (lipoma) on her back, which was harvested and transplanted to her breast. She was discharged on December 20, 1893.
In 1998, Bill Clinton signed a bill that required insurance companies to cover the cost of reconstructive breast surgery for women who had undergone a mastectomy.
Two-thirds of plastic surgery patients are repeat patients, and more than five million Americans may be addicted to plastic surgery. One example was 48-year-old Hang Mioku who was left disfigured after she injected her own face with cooking oil.
Modern plastic surgeons are exploring cloning technology as a method of body rejuvenation and growth within the womb where scarless healing take place.
Big Tent Books published a new picture book by plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer titled My Beautiful Mommy that explains to kids why mom is getting a flatter tummy.
Brazilian-born American Sheyla Hershey is the proud owner of the world’s largest breasts. In May 2008, after eight operations, she had a recorded breast size of 34FFF. By the end of January 2009, after having another operation in her native Brazil, she was reported to be a size 38KKK.
According to the annual survey conducted by the Beverly Hills Institute of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery, Scarlet Johansson and Angelina Jolie’s lips are the most wanted features among patients. Keira Knightley topped the cheek department. The features most desired by men were Ben Affleck’s nose, Hugh Jackman and David Beckham’s body and the blue eyes of Bradley Cooper. Matt Bomer’s cheeks and Liam Hemsworth’s skin were also popular.
The first facelift was reportedly performed by Dr Eugene Hollander in Berlin on a Polish aristocrat.
The first extensively reported rhinoplasties were performed in Italy during the Renaissance. The most celebrated surgeon performing the procedure at this time, Gasparo Tagliacozzi, was excommunicated from the Catholic church, as officials believed he was tampering with the work of God.
Many historians agree that the first recorded account of reconstructive plastic surgery was documented in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts, around 500BC. Hindu author Sushruta wrote about the reconstruction of earlobes and noses using skin from other parts of the face.
The trademark bump in Owen Wilson’s nose isn’t natural. He broke it twice, once in a high school scuffle and the other time while playing football with friends.
During WWI, thousands of troops suffered extensive facial injuries caused by bullet and shrapnel wounds. Surgeons and medical professionals were obliged to make major technological advances in reconstructive faciomaxillary procedures in a short and intense period of time. With these came related improvements in anaesthesia and antiseptic techniques, as well as major advances the history of rhinoplasty.
The first dental braces were constructed by Pierre Fauchard in 1728 in France. These braces consisted of a flat strip of metal connected to the teeth by pieces of thread.
In August 2006, an Israeli woman’s breast implants saved her life when she was caught in Hezbollah rocket fire. Doctors found shrapnel embedded in the silicone implants, just inches from the 24-year-old’s heart.
The cosmetic counterpart of reconstructive surgery took on a life of its own in the middle nineteen-hundreds when doctors and patients realised the aesthetic or cosmetic restorative methods were as much or more a part of the healing process as the corrective part of the surgeries.
Two American dental surgeons Horace Wells (1815-1848) and William Morton (1819-1868) pioneered the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and ether respectively as anaesthetics.
More than 11 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2013, according to statistics released by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). This was a 12 percent rise from 2012. ASAPS has collected multi-specialty procedural statistics since 1997, and the overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased more than 150 percent since the tracking of the statistics.
Dr Alan Scott of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Institute used botulinum toxin to treat ophthalmic disorders such as lazy eye in the 1970s. It was also used to treat children suffering from cerebral palsy and to treat excessive localised sweating. Its use as a cosmetic treatment was only discovered when people using it to treat facial muscle spasms noticed an improvement in their facial wrinkles.
In recent years botulinum toxin has been used to treat patients suffering from more than wrinkles. Migraines and severe tension headaches, as well as teeth clenching and grinding, can also be relieved with neurotoxins.
Surgeons of the 19th Century commonly experimented with wooden, glass and ivory balls as breast implants. In 1961 two Texan surgeons, Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow, observed that plastic bags full of blood had a similar consistency to breasts, developing the first enclosed silicone breast implant based on this observation.
In 1962, 30-year-old Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first woman to undergo breast augmentation surgery with these new silicone implants at the Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), more than 360,000 liposuction procedures were performed in the US in 2013, making it (for the first time) the most popular cosmetic procedure, and pushing breast augmentation, with 313,000 procedures, into second place.
The late Michael Jackson was rumoured to have had 10 rhinoplasty procedures.
Prior to the shooting of Ladies of the Chorus (1948), Dr Walter Taylor, an orthodontist specialising in cosmetic surgery, fixed Marilyn Monroe’s protruding front teeth. In 1950, Johnny Hyde arranged for her to have her nose and chin surgically perfected. The details are unknown.