Themistocles Gluck: biographic remarks emphasising his contributions to laryngectomy

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2011 Aug;268(8):1175-1179. doi: 10.1007/s00405-011-1595-x. Epub 2011 Apr 17.


Themistocles Gluck was one of the most imaginative representatives of early modern surgery. During his life he developed landmark innovations in many different areas of surgery. His ideas were often far ahead of his time, a circumstance, which exposed him to severe criticism by his peers. In an era before surgical specialization, he contributed to several fields of surgery. He performed the first total joint replacement in Berlin, in 1890 with a hinged ivory prosthetic knee, and developed models for replacement of shoulder, elbow, and wrist. These efforts had remarkable short term success, but invariably failed in the long term because of infection. A long standing conflict with the powerful Ernst von Bergmann, seriously damaged Gluck's reputation, which he eventually regained, mostly because of his contributions to surgery of the head and neck; in particular, total laryngectomy. The results of laryngectomy in the decade after Billroth's first successful operation were dismal. Through Glucks refinements, developed in cooperation with his coworkers Johannes Soerensen, the results of laryngectomy improved slowly but inexorably, and mortality rates were reduced from 56 to 2%. In his lifetime, Gluck made significant contributions to head and neck surgery, some of which are still currently valid. This publication gives an outline of Gluck's remarkable biography.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Germany
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / history*
  • Laryngeal Diseases / surgery
  • Laryngectomy / history*
  • Otolaryngology / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Themistocles Gluck