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Harold Gillies

Sir Harold Delf Gillies (June 17, 1882 - September 10, 1960) was a New Zealand surgeon who is considered to be the father of plastic surgery.

Gillies was born in Dunedin, New Zealand. He studied medicine at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, where despite a stiff elbow (sustained sliding down the banisters at home as a child) he was a rowing blue.

Gillies married Kathleen Margaret Jackson on the November 9, 1911, in London.

Following the outbreak of World War I he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. Initially posted to Wimereux, near Boulogne, he acted as medical minder to a French-American dentist, Valadier, who was not allowed to operate unsupervised but was attempting to develop jaw repair work. Gillies became enthused by the work and, returning to England, persuaded the army's chief surgeon, Arbuthnot Lane, that a facial injury ward should be established at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot. This rapidly proved inadequate, and a new hospital was developed at Sidcup devoted to facial injury. The Queen's Hospital opened in June 1917 and with its convalescent units provided over 1000 beds. There Gillies and his colleagues developed many techniques of plastic surgery; more than 11,000 operations were performed on over 5,000 men.

For his war services Gillies was knighted in the Birthday Honours list of June 1930. Arbuthnot Lane commented "Better late than never".

During World War II Gillies acted as a consultant to the Ministry of Health, the RAF and the Admiralty. He organised plastic surgery units in various parts of Britain. His own work continued at Rooksdown Hospital, Basingstoke. During this period, and after the war, he trained many doctors from Commonwealth nations in plastic surgery.

In 1946, he and a colleague carried out the world's first sexual reassignment surgery from female to male.

Gillies wrote his first textbook "Plastic Surgery of the Face" in 1920 and, with Ralph Millard, completed "The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery" in 1958. As well as being a fine surgeon he was also a champion golfer and inveterate practical joker.


Pound R. Gillies: Surgeon Extraordinary. London, Michael Joseph, 1964; Gillies HD. Plastic Surgery of the Face. London, Henry Frowde, 1920; Gillies HD, Millard R. The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery. London and New York, Butterworth, 1958

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Last updated: 05-15-2005 14:06:37