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Masks for Shattered or Diseased Faces

Updated on February 3, 2020

Sushruta, Ancient Indian Physician


Sushruta, Ancient Physician

Sushruta, an ancient Indian physician, was one of the first pioneers to perform skin grafts. He was a Hindu surgeon in the yeat 600 BC, yet he attempted to use skin from the cheek area to perform rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty is the name of surgery for problems or reconstruction of the nose. Back in that time, it was not unusual for kingdoms to slice off the upper lip and nose of enemy soldiers. Not only was it disfiguring, but it was difficult to smell, and infections were many.

Sometime in the 16th century, Gaspare Tagliacozzi earned his medical and philosophy degree by the time he was 24 years old. He too attempted skin grafting, and he used skin from the patient's upper arms. In Italy, rhinoplasty was a prevalent problem. The popularity of rapier was widespread during this time. The blade was a double-edged sword that could easily slice through bone.

Tagliacozzi was a firm believer in helping the misfortunate. He is quoted as saying:

"We restore, rebuild, make whole parts which nature hath given but fortune has taken away, not so much to delight the eye, but that it might be a way to ease the spirit and the mind of the affected." He saw that disfigurement was much more devastating than just physical problems.

Gaspare Tagliacozzi, Surgeon

Gaspare, Surgeon
Gaspare, Surgeon
Gaspare's Famous Words
Gaspare's Famous Words

Sir Harold Gillies, Father of Modern Plastic Surgery

Sir Harold Gilles was born in 1882, New Zealand. While working at the Royal Army Medical Hospital, he was so impressed by a French-American dentist who was experimenting with skin grafting; he decided to go to Paris. There, he attended another doctor who was performing surgery to remove a tumor on a patient's face and covering it with skin. He immediately returned to England and persuaded the army surgeon to establish a facial injury ward at Cambridge Military Hospital. It was then at Queen's Hospital that had a capacity of 1000 eds that Gillies and his colleagues performed more than 11,000 operations on over 5000 men. These men were mostly soldier casualties of the war. The day he opened his clinic, some 2000 patients arrived in just one day and all from the Battle of Somme, the summer of 1916. Gillies was so overwhelmed he convinced his cousin, Dr. Archibald McIndoe, to join him in the field of surgery.

Gillies devoted his career to developing new techniques for plastic surgery. In his spare time, he was a well-known amateur golfer. He represented England in the amateur match against Scotland in 1908, and 1926-1927. He also won the St. George Grand Challenge Cup in 1913. His brother George won the 1899 Australian Amateur.

Shattered Faces of War

Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War
Shattered Faces of War

Dr. Archibald McIndoe

After the war, there were so many soldiers badly disfigured they needed a place to go to hide from their families and the public. Because their injuries were so disfiguring, they stood little hope of employment. The men were afraid to go home to their families, and they suffered mentally, physically, and economically. All mirrors were removed from the clinic to prevent the men from looking at themselves. Reconstructive surgeries would take months or even longer while they were recuperating.

Dr. McIndoe did not have the usual rules for a clinic. He believed in treating the man, along with medicine. He placed kegs of light ale around the wards for the men, allowed them to dress in whatever they wanted. The requirements were so relaxed the men decided to form a group just for the. The group started with only 39 members but grew to over 600. Most of these soldiers were men of the RAF, Royal Air Force soldiers. The club continued for years even after their discharge until finally there were too few men left. It continued until 2007.

This club was called The Guinea Club, the heroes of World War II.

Guinea Pig Club

guinea Pig Club
guinea Pig Club

Francis Derwent Wood, Sculptor, Artist

Francis Derwent Wood 91871-19260. When World War I broke out, Wood could not enlist because he was fifty years old. But that didn't stop him from volunteering to work in the hospitals. While working in the hospital, he saw so many gruesome injuries it led him to open a clinic and use his skills as an artist to help them. Instead of rubber masks, he created them of skinny copper and sculptured them to mold to their likeness. His clinic was called The Tin Noses Shop.

At about the same time, Anna Coleman Ladd, a socialite from Pennsylvania, had married Dr. Maynard Ladd, who was in charge of the American Red Cross during the war. Anna joined working with Wood in making and painting masks for the soldiers. These copper masks were one-thirty-second thick and weighed 4-9 ounces. Anna had created over 200 masks for the men, painstakingly painting them to match their skin color and to look as natural as possible. Very few of the masks remain probably because the men were usually buried with them.

Anna's papers can be found in the Smithsonian Museum. After the war, Anna and her husband retired to California. She died there in 1939.

Anna Coleman Ladd, Painting a Mask

Anna Coleman Ladd Painting a Mask
Anna Coleman Ladd Painting a Mask

Plastic Surgery Today

Today, plastic surgery is continually evolving. The discoveries of science, medical, and technological advances are unfolding every day. The latest even involves 3-D printing! And with the plastic surgery for facial disfigurements, lives have been returned to those patients. Hope and dedication have made them whole again and given them a reason for living.

Most of us probably saw the movie Rocky, about Roy Lee Dennis and his facial disfigurement. Today, partial and full-face transplants have been done around the world and here in the United States. As of August 2018, forty full face transplants have been performed. The doctors and surgeons are to be commended for their drive to explore medicine.

Cosmetic surgery is much more than an obsession for beauty, although that is certainly a growing part of plastic surgery. Botox, approved by FDA in 2002, already has had over 1.1 million injections per year.


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