Plastic Surgery in Boston:

Then and Now


The National Archives of Plastic Surgery

National Archives of Plastic Surgery Logo

The National Archives of Plastic Surgery was established in 1972 by Boston plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Goldwyn, and was placed in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. The archives is sponsored by The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation, The American Association of Plastic Surgeons, The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and The American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons. The Archives' goal is to acquire, preserve and make available material that records the development of plastic and reconstructive surgery, by collecting the official records, correspondence, minutes of meetings, photographs, and films of professional organizations and the personal papers of distinguished plastic surgeons.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Plastic Surgery is the part of General Surgery that specializes in the treatment of patients with birth defects, defects resulting from trauma, or treatment of neoplasms. Plastic surgeons operate on the entire body, from the scalp to soles of the feet. Its primary aims are to improve function and appearance.

For centuries in Asia and Europe, plastic surgery had been performed to improve the appearance of patients mutilated by disease or by punishment for crime. During the past two centuries plastic surgeons have pioneered many innovative techniques that today are used in all of types of surgery:

· Repair of congenital cleft lips and palate.

· Use of split thickness skin grafts in the treatment of burns.

· Microsurgical techniques which allow direct repair of tiny arteries, veins, and nerves.

· Refined the anatomy of the blood supply to multiple tissue masses of skin, muscle, fascia and/or nerves, thus allowing immediate repair of a wide variety of surgical and traumatic defects in any part of the body.

· Transplantation of organs between humans.

· Repair of facial and jaw fractures.

Plastic Surgery in Boston

Though Boston has always been considered a major center of American medicine, it is not widely known for its contributions to plastic surgery. In fact, Boston has been the location of many "firsts" in plastic surgery.

John Collins Warren (1778-1856) and his son, J. Mason Warren (1811-1867) were early pioneers in cleft lip and palate surgery. J. Mason Warren performed the first rhinoplasties in North America. The aesthetic talents and surgical skill of George Monks (1853-1933), after whom Boston's annual Monks Lecture in Plastic Surgery is named, was the founder and first president of the Boston Surgical Society. He published the first report of an axial vascular flap from the temporal area to replace an eyelid.

Varaztad Kazanjian (1879-1974), a critical figure in the establishment of plastic surgery as a separate surgical specialty, pioneered new techniques in the repair of maxillofacial injuries. Research conducted by Bradford Cannon (b.1907) changed the way theAmerican military medical establishment treated burns during the Second World War. Joseph Murray (b.1919) performed the world's first successful kidney transplant. Robert Goldwyn (b.1930) was the driving force behind the establishment of the National Archives of Plastic Surgery as the first (and only) major collection devoted to the documentation of the history of plastic surgery in the United States.

Plastic Surgery has been a critical part of the city's rich
medical history and has contributed in its unique way to establish Boston as a vital center of American medicine.


J. Mason Warren (1811-1867)

Surgical Casebook: manuscript, 1832-1843

After his graduation from Harvard Medical School in 1832,

Dr. Jonathan MasonWarren, like many American medical students, went to Europe and continued his
clinical education in the Hôtel-Dieu, la Pitié, and other hospitals of Paris. There he studied the surgical work of Guillaume Dupuytren and Philibert-Joseph Roux and attended lectures of Gabriel Andral. J. Mason Warren returned to Boston in 1835
and assumed his father's medical practice, specializing in plastic surgery.

JM Warren Surgical Casebook

This volume contains observations of cases Dr. Warren observed in the wards of
Paris, but also contains some records of his own patients- including this notable
1836 case of the first rhinoplasty performed in the United States.

Gift of Richard Warren, M.D. to the Harvard Medical Library, 1984



Rhinoplastic Operations with some Remarks on the Autoplastic Methods
(Boston: D. Clapp, Jr., 1840)

Dr. J. Mason Warren published his account of the first American rhinoplasty in the
Boston medical and Surgical Journal for March 8, 1837.

Boston Medical and Surgical Journal

The article is a landmark in the history of plastic surgery in this country. It was reprinted with two additional
cases in 1840. The case appears again, thirty years later, in Dr. Warren's Surgical operations with cases and observations (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867).

Gift of J. Mason Warren, M.D. to the Harvard College Library, 1844, and transferred to the Harvard Medical Library, 1915


George H. Monks


George H. Monks (1853-1933)

Dr. George H. Monks, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, lectured on surgery at the medical school and taught pathology and surgery at the Harvard Dental School. He published on carcinoma of the appendix, fractures of the humerus, acute pancreatitis, aseptic surgical technique, and finger avulsion. His awareness of the need for surgical rehabilitation led him to care for a wide variety of facial disfigurements. In addition to being a physician, Dr. Monks was an accomplished sculptor. He created three-dimensional models of anatomical structures and museum-caliber classical figures and objects. The George H. Monks Lectureship, established in 1972, honors Dr. Monks' contributions to reconstructive surgery.

Illustration Used in Instruction

Monks Illustration

An example of Dr. Monks' illustrations used to instruct medical and dental students.

Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

"The Restoration of a Lower Eyelid by a new Method."


Article on Axial Flap

Reproduction from Dr. Monks' seminal article on the use of an axial flap. Published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1898.

Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine


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National Archives of Plastic Surgery

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