War Drives Plastic Surgery Developments
For better or worse, the driving force behind most plastic surgery developments during the late 1800s and early 1900s was war, with the awful injuries it often inflicts on its participants. In fact, it was the "War to End All Wars," World War I, that catapulted plastic surgery into a new and higher realm.
Never before had physicians been required to treat so many and such extensive facial and head injuries. Shattered jaws, blown-off noses and lips and gaping skull wounds caused by modern weapons required innovative restorative procedures. Some of the best medical talent in Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary devoted themselves to restoring the faces and lives of their countrymen during and after World War I. In the United States, plastic surgeons like Varaztad Kazanjian of Boston and Vilray Blair of St. Louis nobly served both their country, and humanity, in those years.
Aesthetic Procedures Also Advance
Aesthetic surgical procedures also developed during this period as physicians realized, in the words of 19th Century American plastic surgeon John Orlando Roe, "how much valuable talent (had) been...buried from human eyes, lost to the world and society by reason of embarrassment...caused by the conscious, or in some cases, unconscious influence of some physical infirmity or deformity or unsightly blemish."
Plastic: To Mold or Give Form
Despite the popular misconception, the word "plastic" in "plastic surgery" does not mean "artificial," but is derived from the ancient Greek word "plastikos," which means to mold or give form. Plastic surgery includes both the reconstructive and aesthetic subspecialties.