Who Invented Breast Implants?
The launch of Playboy Magazine, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, the rise of the motion picture star, and the creation of the Barbie Doll are just a few of the cultural influences of the 1950s that created the demand for breast augmentation surgery which continues today.
But more importantly, two doctors envisioned a solution for women who underwent mastectomy as a result of breast cancer.
Plastic surgeons had seemingly tried everything in the quest to make bigger breasts. Paraffin wax injections were used in the 1890s but quickly abandoned after the discovery that Paraffin would hazardously spread throughout the body. Various forms of sponges, polyurethane, ivory, ground rubber, wool, wood, ox cartilage, direct silicone injections, and glass balls were all used by surgeons with inconsistent or disastrous results. Both Morton I. Berson and Jacques Maliniac attempted surgeries of rotating chest wall tissue into the breast for enlargement. Nonsurgical solutions, such as suction devices, potions, lotions, vacuums, and falsies (stuffed bras), were all used with low levels of satisfaction from women.
Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin are credited with pioneering the invention of the modern silicon breast implant. Frank Gerow had his “Aha!” moment one day while squeezing a plastic blood bag at work and commenting how much it felt like a woman’s breast. The pair quickly developed a silicon breast prosthesis, known as the Cronin-Gerow Implant, which was filled with silicon gel. The implant was successfully tested on a dog named Esmeralda. The implant was inserted under Esmeralda’s skin and remained there harmlessly until the dog chewed the stitches out. Afterwards, it was determined that the Cronin-Gerow Implant was safe for a human trial.
Timmie Jean Lindsey , a mother of six, underwent the first breast enlargement surgery using silicone implants in 1962 in Houston, Texas. Lindsey originally sought removal of a tattoo from her breast. After striking a deal with the surgeons, which included additional plastic surgery to pin back her ears, Lindsey agreed to be the guinea pig for the silicone implant augmentation. Lindsey’s surgery, which took her from a B to a C cup, was a historical success. The procedure has not only been used by women who want the perfect body, but, more importantly, by patients who have suffered from breast cancer. This was something Gerow and Cronin envisaged from the start, and one of their motives for developing the operation.
Today, breast implant surgery is the second most common surgery throughout the world.