Invited commentary

Invited commentary The initiative and industry of Jacques Vrebos in produc- Reading through the titles of the contributions and ing this paper “The scientific contributions of United demonstrations is almost like looking at the Table of States plastic surgeons to the Revue de Chirurgie Plasti- Contents of any of the “modern” textbooks of plastic que and the Revue de Chirurgie Structive Brussels surgery some 10 years ago. The article is a well- (1931–1938)” not only adds to the global history of plas- researched and fascinating contribution to our knowl- tic surgery, but also affords us a fascinating glimpse of edge of the beginnings of plastic surgery as a definitive the scope of the specialty more than half a century ago. specialty. As one of the dwindling number of “second genera- tion” plastic surgeons – having been trained by Gillies and Kilner – the breadth of the field of what, after all, is J.C. Mustardé a part only of the activities of US surgeons, leaves me Longhill Avenue 90, not only astonished but also very humble. Ayr KA7 4DF, UK EDIT OR’S COMMENT Many people are familiar with Henry Ford’s opinion of the unwelcome revelation that an identical discovery was history but I suspect it is not one with which Jacques published 30 years previously. Vrebos would agree. Perhaps it would have been better Vilray Blair by the way, was, one might say, almost had the great man limited himself to jokes about the col- America’s answer to Gillies. Although he is still revered our of his cars .....”You can have any colour you want, as in his own country, I have been surprised that scarcely long as it’s black.” any of today’s young plastic surgeons and residents in To me and to many others, history is both fascinating Europe have heard of him! The general cocktail party- and instructive. When it comes down to our speciality, going public in London all seem to know of McIndoe but the accounts of the lives of notable surgeons enable one very few of Gillies. I suspect that both of these great to get under their skin and with a little imagination, it is men owe their immortality amongst members of the possible to feel as if one is in the operating room with a medical profession, not to the fact that they were both rather secretive Joseph, crouching over a nose, into which New Zealanders, but largely because of their surgical in- he is inserting a piece of ivory obtained from a piano struments, which are still in daily use. manufacturer. Or it could be Blair one is watching from a Medical text books are always said to be out of date respectful distance, whilst Millard asks him why he is ty- as soon as they are published, so those seeking lasting ing 6 knots in a horsehair suture, the answer being “be- fame would be well advised to concentrate their talents cause 5 is not enough”. Gillies’ reply to someone who on inventing useful instruments. It will not be long be- asked him in the theatre if he always did such and such a fore some of the best books of our time will be out of thing was rather better: “I never always do anything.” print and join those of Gillies and Joseph, for example, Amusing, fascinating perhaps, but why instructive? gathering dust on backroom shelves in dark and silent li- The answer is because the next chapter in the book may braries. lead on to an account of just how Joseph stumbled onto Despite this melancholy thought, it is quite remark- ivory and may even, to our amazement, reveal how suc- able how many of the titles in the list of articles from cessful it was. Then if one stops to think for a while, the Coelst’s Revue de Chirurgie Plastique could easily find idea of using coral or some other naturally occurring themselves in our current journals. For example, “The substance may come to one. It may even turn out to work indications and relationship of plastic surgery to other quite well and all because one’s thoughts were activated specialities” and “The medico-legal aspect in the prac- by dipping into a little history. Many long-forgotten arti- tice of plastic and reconstructive surgery” mirror the cles no doubt contain useful solutions, which because of problems and concerns with which we are confronted to- their very simplicity are pertinent in today’s cost con- day. scious health care systems. From time to time, authors The content and the solutions to these and more practi- describe techniques as new, only to be disappointed by cal problems may not be the same in the 1936 papers as European Journal of Plastic Surgery Springer Journals

Invited commentary

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Copyright © 1999 by Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
Medicine & Public Health; Plastic Surgery
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