2.28.2012

March 1962: Breast implants


In mid-March*, the first silicone-gel breast implants are inserted into a female patient.

The patient
Timmie Jean Lindsey, a 30-year-old mother of six, goes to Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas, to have rose tattoos removed from her breasts. While there, doctors persuade her to get breast implants. She agrees, but only if the doctors will also pin back her ears.


The doctors
Lindsey was originally under the care of Dr. Frank Gerow, a plastic surgeon with Baylor University College of Medicine. Gerow then teamed with Dr. Thomas Cronin to develop the implant. Working with the Dow Corning Center for Aid to Medical Research, they used materials supplied by Dow Corning. Cronin and Gerow's paper on the procedure, "Augmentation Mammaplasty: A new 'natural feel' prosthesis," would first be presented at the Third International Congress of Plastic Surgery (Washington, 1963).
They wrote: "For some years now, at least in the United States, women have been bosom conscious. Perhaps this is due in large measure to the tremendous amount of publicity which has been given to some movie actresses blessed with generous sized breasts. Many women with limited development of the breasts are extremely sensitive about it, apparently feeling that they are less womanly and therefore, less attractive. While most such women are satisfied, or at least put up with 'falsies,' probably all of them would be happier if somehow, they could have a pleasing enlargement from within."

The product
Breast enlargement has a long history and had been achieved by a number of means, including implants of glass balls and sponges and direct injection of paraffin and silicone. The Cronin-Gerow implants consisted of a silicone envelope, or sac, filled with silicone gel; Dacron patches were used on the outside of the envelope to adhere to tissue and keep it in place. It has been reported that Gerow hit upon the idea of a sealed sac after squeezing a plastic blood bag and noticing its similarities to the female breast. Dow Corning would begin commercial marketing of the implant in 1964 (the above photo is from 1965).

* Note about the date
I have been unable to pin down the exact date for the procedure on Timmie Jean Lindsey. It appears to have taken place between March 14 and March 21, based on communications between Drs. Cronin and Gerow and the Dow Corning Center. (Many thanks to Dr. Michael Middleton, a radiologist with the UC San Diego School of Medicine and co-author of the "Breast Implant Classification" paper linked below, for his help in dating the surgery.)

Resources
* "Surgically Implantable Human Breast Prosthesis" (patent application by Cronin-Dow, 1963; patent issued, 1966): @
* Breast Implants (from U.S. Food and Drug Administration): @
* "Safety of Silicone Breast Implants" (Institute of Medicine, 1999): @
* "Information for Women About the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants" (Institute of Medicine, 2000): @
* "History of Breast Reconstruction" (Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Eastern Virginia Medical School, 2004): @
* "Development of the Cronin implant" (School of Engineering and Applied Science and Darden School Foundation, University of Virginia, 1996): @ 
* Breast Implants entry, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: @ 
* "Cleopatra's Needle: The History and Legacy of Silicone Injections" (paper by Dr. M. Sharon Webb, 1997): @
* "Breast Implant Classification with MR Imaging Correlation" (Radiographics, 2000): @

* "A Psychological Profile of women selected for augmentation mammaplasty" (South African Medical Journal, September 1963): @

Dow Corning
* "Highlights from the history of Dow Corning Corporation, the silicone pioneer" (PDF): @
* "Fascinating Silicone: For the Beauty and Personal Care Industry": @
* "Silicone Biomaterials: History and Chemistry & Medical Applications of Silicones" (PDF): @

Books
* Excerpt from "Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, Volume 1" (2009): @
* "Cleavage: Technology, Controversy, and the Ironies of the Man-Made Breast" (book by Nora Jacobson, 1999): @
* "Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History" (Florence Williams, 2012): @
* Excerpt from "Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case" (book by Marcia Angell, 1997): @

Media
* "I had the world's first breast job -- and endured years of misery, says Texan great-grandmother" (The Daily Mail, 2007): @
* Interview with Lindsey (The Guardian, 2008): @
* "Breast implants: the first 50 years" (The Guardian, 2012): @
* "Breast implants: Fifty long, strange years" (The Washington Post, 2012): @
* "Silicone City: The rise and fall of the implant -- or how Houston went from an oil-based economy to a breast-based economy" (Texas Monthly, 1995): @ 
* "When breast is not good enough" (The Age, 2012): @ 
* "Chronology of Silicone Breast Implants" (pbs.org, through 1999): @
* Episode of BBC's "Witness" program (2012): @
* "A brief history of breast enlargements" (BBC News Magazine, 2012): @

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