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Wolfe’s Part in the Italian Risorgimento and His Skin Graft

Sykes, Philip J. OBE, MA, FRCS

doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e31821e8fdb
Circumspectus Medicinae: Texts and Contexts

A little known episode in the history of plastic surgery occurred during the Italian Risorgimento 150 years ago. Dr. J. R. Wolfe, who described the full-thickness graft which bears his name, was involved with Garibaldi in the war to unite Italy. He crossed swords with an English nurse, Jessie White Mario, and was thrown into prison. The events were recorded in the Lancet as “A Neapolitan Outrage.” This article gives the details of the sad story and goes on to describe the first attempts at full-thickness grafting to correct ectropion. Wolfe was not the first to carry out this procedure and the name of Lawson is rarely remembered.

From the Welsh Regional Plastic Surgery Unit, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom (Retired).

Received March 31, 2011, and accepted for publication, after revision, April 7, 2011.

Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: none declared.

Reprints: Philip J Sykes, OBE, MA, FRCS, Applecote, Applethwaite, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4PP, United Kingdom. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.