The Facemaker review: A powerful portrait of plastic surgery’s pioneer

Lindsey Fitzharris’s biography of Harold Gillies, who became the world’s pre-eminent specialist in plastic surgery during the first world war, depicts a forward-thinking, gifted man

Humans 22 June 2022

AROUND 40 million people were wounded or killed in the first world war. “For the first time… Europe’s military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities,” writes historian Lindsey Fitzharris in her informative book, The Facemaker.

Fitzharris introduces us to New Zealand-born ear, nose and throat doctor Harold Gillies. By 1917, he had become the world’s pre-eminent specialist in plastic surgery, developing techniques still used today like the “bishop’s mitre flap” for the nose, or the “tubed pedicle” for severe burns.

Plastic surgery in the 19th century was crude, with masks …

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