Arpad gerster and max thorek contributions to American surgery

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The legacy and the influence on American surgery is discussed of two Hungarian born surgeons: Arpad Gerster (1848-1923) and Max Thorek (1880-1960). Both of them were born in Northern Hungary, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, today Slovakia. Gerster got his medical education in Vienna The influence of Theodor Billroth left everlasting impressions in him. In 1874 he arrived in New York and became the first doctor in town who practiced exclusively surgery. He became an attending surgeon in The German Hospital and later at Mount Sinai Hospital. Gerster modernized the hospital's functions and services, introducing the rotation system, and also made the original observation that dissemination of cancer may be caused by surgery. His aseptic methods were revolutionary at the time. Max Thorek arrived in Chicago in 1897. With a fantastic endurance he overwhelmed all barriers and became a doctor. He started his practice in one of Chicago's poor immigrant neighborhoods, but stepwise he could excel and in 1911 he co-founded The American Hospital. His ideas of modernizing surgery became reality. Thorek is one of the first who practiced plastic surgery, and his contribution by writing about surgical errors and safeguards became a great success. He founded the International College of Surgeons, a result of his widespread relations among surgeons all over the world. The parallels in the lives of these great surgeons: solid education, knowledge of languages, talent for music, literature, and arts, creative thinking combined with hard work, good humor, as well as a social conscience led them to make groundbreaking contributions to American and international surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-166
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Investigative Surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2009


  • Arpad Gerster
  • Biography
  • History of surgery
  • Max Thorek

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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