Karl Ferdinand von Graefe

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Lithograph of Karl Ferdinand von Gräfe

Karl Ferdinand von Gräfe,[1] often Anglicized to Graefe[2] (March 8, 1787 – July 4, 1840), was a German surgeon from Warsaw. He was the father of ophthalmologist Albrecht von Graefe (1828–1870) and grandfather of politician Albrecht von Graefe (1868-1933).

He studied medicine at Halle and Leipzig, and after obtaining his licence from Leipzig, he was in 1807 appointed a private physician to Duke Alexius of Anhalt-Bernburg. In 1811, he became a professor of surgery and director of the ophthalmological institute at the University of Berlin. During the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon, he was a superintendent of military hospitals.

When peace was concluded in 1815, he resumed his professorial duties. He was also appointed physician to the general staff of the Prussian army, and he became a director of the Friedrich Wilhelm Institute and of the Medico-Chirurgical Academy (Charité).

He died suddenly at Hanover, where he had been called to operate on the eyes of the crown prince. His grave is preserved in the Protestant Friedhof II der Jerusalems- und Neuen Kirchengemeinde (Cemetery No. II of the congregations of Jerusalem's Church and New Church) in Berlin-Kreuzberg, south of Hallesches Tor.

He was a pioneer of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and a founder of German rhinoplastic surgery. He developed his own techniques in regards to rhinoplasty, being modifications of the Italian methods of Gasparo Tagliacozzi (1545–1599) as well as Indian surgical practices that date from antiquity. Graefe also performed one of the first operations for treatment of a congenital cleft palate, and was a pioneer of eyelid surgery. His lectures at the University of Berlin attracted students from all parts of Europe. He is also reputed to have carried out the first reported clitoridectomy in the West, which was done on a teenage girl regarded as an "imbecile" who was masturbating.[3]


The following are his principal works:

  • Normen für die Ablösung größerer Gliedmaßen (Berlin, 1812) - Standards for the removal of larger limbs.
  • Rhinoplastik (1818) - Rhinoplasty.
  • Neue Beiträge zur Kunst, Teile des Angesichts organisch zu ersetzen (1821).
  • Die epidemisch-kontagiose Augenblennorrhoe Ägyptens in den europäischen Befreiungsheeren (1824) - The epidemic involving ophthalmic blennorrhea in Egypt affecting the European liberation armies.
  • Jahresberichte ber das klinisch-chirurgisch-augenarztliche Institut der Universität zu Berlin (1817-1834) - Annual reports on the clinical-surgical-ophthalmology institute at the University of Berlin.

With Philipp Franz von Walther, he edited the Journal für Chirurgie und Augenheilkunde.[4]


  1. ^ "Gräfe, Karl Ferdinand von", in the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. XI. 1880.
  2. ^ See the article on Ä.
  3. ^ Elchalal, Uriel et al 1997. For a report of this procedure, see Black, Donald Campbell. On the Functional Diseases of the Renal, Urinary and Reproductive Organs. Lindsay & Blakiston, 1872, pp. 127–129. Also see Shorter, Edward. From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era, Simon and Schuster, 2008, p. 82.
  4. ^ See E Michaelis, Karl Ferdinand von Gräfe in seiner 30 jahrigen Wirken für Staat und Wissenschaft (Berlin, 1840).

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.