Sir Harold Gillies
Harold Delf Gillies
17 June 1882
Dunedin, New Zealand
|Died||10 September 1960 (aged 78)|
Marylebone, London, England
|Alma mater||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Otolaryngologist and pioneer plastic surgeon|
|Years active||c. 1910–1960|
|Known for||Plastic surgery, sex reassignment surgery|
Kathleen Margaret Jackson
|Relatives||Robert Gillies (father)|
Mick Gillies (son)
Archibald McIndoe (cousin)
Gillies was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, the son of Robert Gillies. He attended Wanganui Collegiate School and studied medicine at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where despite a stiff elbow sustained sliding down the banisters at home as a child, he was an excellent sportsman. He was a golf blue in 1903, 1904 and 1905 and also a rowing blue, competing in the 1904 Boat Race.
World War I
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, eager after seeing Valadier experimenting with nascent skin graft techniques, then decided to leave for Paris, to meet the renowned oral surgeon Hippolyte Morestin. He saw him remove a tumour on a patient's face, and cover it with jaw skin taken from the patient. Gillies became enthusiastic about the work and on his return to England persuaded the army's chief surgeon, William Arbuthnot-Lane, that a facial injury ward should be established at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot.
This rapidly proved inadequate and a new hospital devoted to facial repairs was developed at Sidcup. The Queen's Hospital opened in June 1917 and with its convalescent units provided over 1,000 beds. There Gillies and his colleagues developed many techniques of plastic surgery; more than 11,000 operations were performed on over 5,000 men (mostly soldiers with facial injuries, usually from gunshot wounds).The hospital, later to become Queen Mary's Hospital, was at Frognal House (the birthplace and property of Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney after whom Sydney, Australia, was named).
Between the wars Gillies developed a substantial private practice with Rainsford Mowlem, including many famous patients, and travelled extensively, lecturing, teaching and promoting the most advanced techniques worldwide.
In 1930 Gillies invited his cousin, Archibald McIndoe to join the practice, and also suggested he apply for a post at St Bartholomew's Hospital. This was the point at which McIndoe became committed to plastic surgery, in which he too became pre-eminent.
World War II
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 and inspired colleagues to do the same, including pioneering plastic surgeon Stewart Harrison who founded the plastic surgery unit at Wexham Park Hospital, Berkshire. His own work continued at Rooksdown House, part of the Park Prewett Hospital, Basingstoke. During this period, and after the war, he trained many doctors from Commonwealth nations in plastic surgery.
Pioneering sex reassignment surgery
Instead of retiring at the end of the Second World War Gillies had to keep working as he had insufficient savings.
In 1946, he and a colleague carried out one of the first sex reassignment surgeries from female to male on Michael Dillon. In 1951 he and colleagues carried out one of the first modern sex reassignment surgery from male to female using a flap technique on Roberta Cowell, which became the standard for 40 years.
Gillies made a visit to New Zealand in 1956 after an absence of 51 years.
Gillies died on 10 September 1960 at The London Clinic, at 20 Devonshire Place, Marylebone. Despite earning an estimated £30,000 per year between the First and Second World Wars he left an estate of only £21,161.
Gillies married Kathleen Margaret Jackson on 9 November 1911, in London. They had four children. His eldest son, John Gillies, flew Spitfires with No. 92 Squadron RAF in World War II. John was shot down over France on 23 May 1940, and became a POW for the duration of the war. Harold's youngest son Michael Thomas Gillies followed his father into medicine. Actor Daniel Gillies is his descendant.
Gillies was a well-known amateur golfer. He played in the Amateur Championship every year from 1906 to 1931 and represented England in their annual match against Scotland in 1908, 1925, 1926 and 1927. He won the 1913 St. George's Grand Challenge Cup and was runner-up in the 1914 Golf Illustrated Gold Vase, behind Harold Hilton. He won the President's Putter in 1925. His older brother Charles won the 1899 Australian Amateur.
For many years his home was at 71 Frognal, in the heart of London's Hampstead village. A blue plaque on the front of that house now commemorates his life and work. In 2015, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge built 12 houses and named their road Harold Gillies Close (CB5 8ZD) in his honour.
- Gillies HD. Plastic Surgery of the Face. Henry Frowde. 1920, 1983. ISBN 0-906923-08-5
- Gillies HD, Millard DR. The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery. Butterworth. 1958.
- Davis, A. D. (1957). "The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery". California Medicine. 87 (1): 67. PMC 1512094.
- "Walter Ernest O'Neil Yeo - One of the first people to undergo Plastic Surgery". The Yeo Society. 28 August 2008.
- Wright-St Clair, Rex. "Gillies, Harold Delf". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
- "Stewart Harrison". 7 July 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2019 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- Mary Roach (18 March 2007). "Girls Will Be Boys". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
- Meikle. Page 196.
- "Sir Harold Gillies". The Times. 12 September 1960. p. 14.
- Meikle, Murray C. (2013). Reconstructing Faces: The Art and Wartime Surgery of Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe and Mowlem (Hardback). Dunedin: Otago University Press. ISBN 978-1-877578-39-7. OCLC 870975648.
- Pound R. Gillies: Surgeon Extraordinary. Michael Joseph. 1964.
- Slevin, Tom. ‘The Wound and the First World War: ‘Cartesian’ Surgeries to Embodied Being in Psychoanalysis, Electrification and Skin Grafting’ in Body and Society (Volume 14, No.2 2008) pp. 39–61.
- Miranda Seymour, "Carrying on", New York Times (Sunday Book Review), 23 Jul 2010.
- "Harold Gillies – Aesthetic Reconstructor". NZ Edge. Archived from the original on 16 October 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Gillies Archives". Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Harold Gillies (1882-1960)". Surgical Tutor. Archived from the original on 3 May 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Project Facade". Retrieved 20 February 2009.
- "Harold Delf Gillies, plastic surgeon (1882-1960)". WW2 People's War Archive. BBC. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
- "Gillies, Harold Delf (1882-1960)". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
- Kennedy, Pagan (18 March 2007). "'The First Man-Made Man' (first chapter)". New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2007.