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Orbit. 2012 Jun;31(3):162-7. doi: 10.3109/01676830.2011.648816.

The contribution of Aulus Cornelius Celsus (25 B.C.-50 A.D.) to eyelid surgery.

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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Unit, Hospital of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.


An accurate study of ancient medicine reveals that our forebears developed a large number of surgical ideas and techniques considered to be quite modern. Although the contribution of Aulus Cornelius Celsus to the development of several branches of surgery has already been celebrated, scant attention has been focused on his description of eyelid surgery in the seventh book of his encyclopedia, De Medicina octo libri. Although the practice was quite advanced by that time, the first century A.D., Celsus was the first among the Greco-Roman authors to deal systematically with ophthalmology and oculoplastic surgery. He was a compiler, and many of his "innovations" were in fact done in principle by others. Yet it is almost certain that the surgical procedures presented were introduced more than 15 centuries before the time of Celsus by Egyptians, Indian surgeons, and Greek and Alexandrian doctors. The burning of the Ancient Library of Alexandria as well as the perishing of many writings of pioneer physicians resulted in a tragic loss of ancient knowledge for posterity. Celsus, whose work has been preserved in our time, helped to publicize this ancient knowledge, and perhaps because of the loss of so much early medical literature, became one of the most influential experts on ancient medicine. An analysis of how previous authors have influenced Celsus' description of eyelid surgery and reflections on how modern his ideas (or those of his time) were are presented in the paper.

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