Famous 20th Century Surgeons

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ben Carson

Ben Carson
Famous As: Politician, Former Neurosurgeon
Birthdate: September 18, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is credited with many pioneering neurosurgical procedures. He became a Library of Congress “Living Legend” and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He later contested in the 2016 presidential primaries, has authored numerous books, was a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and earned 60 honorary doctorates.

 2 Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta
Famous As: Won multiple Emmy Awards for appearing on the program Sanjay Gupta, M.D.
Birthdate: October 23, 1969
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Novi, Michigan, United States

Born to Indian-origin parents in the U.S., Sanjay Gupta is an acclaimed neurosurgeon and medical writer. He has also had a successful stint as a medical reporter for CNN, covering medical issues at wars and disasters. He has played himself in the movie Contagion and is a skilled accordion player.

 3 Paul Nassif

Paul Nassif
Famous As: Plastic surgeon
Birthdate: June 6, 1962
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

American plastic surgeon and television personality Paul Sabin Nassif is best known for specialising in rhinoplasty and for co-hosting the plastic surgery-themed American reality television series Botched and its spin-off series Botched by Nature with another plastic surgeon Terry Dubrow. Nassif owns the skincare line Nassif MD Dermaceuticals and is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

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 4 Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet
Famous As: Politician, Surgeon, Epidemiologist
Birthdate: September 29, 1951
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Santiago

 5 Christiaan Barnard

Christiaan Barnard
Famous As: Cardiac Surgeon
Birthdate: November 8, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Beaufort West, South Africa
Died: September 2, 2001
Born to a preacher father of modest means, Christiaan Barnard completed his medical school on scholarships. In December 1967, he revolutionized medical science by performing the first human heart transplant by transplanting 25-year-old accident victim Denise Darvall’s heart into 53-year-old chronic heart patient grocer Louis Washkansky.

 6 Charles R. Drew

Charles R. Drew
Famous As: Physician & Surgeon
Birthdate: June 3, 1904
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States
Died: April 1, 1950

Born into a middle-class African-American family, Charles R. Drew initially excelled in football and track and field, and ended up earning athletic scholarships to fund his studies. He grew up to be a renowned surgeon and revolutionized the storage of blood plasma in blood banks.

 7 René Gerónimo Favaloro

René Gerónimo Favaloro
Famous As: Cardiovascular Surgeon
Birthdate: July 12, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: La Plata, Argentina
Died: July 29, 2000

René Gerónimo Favaloro was an Argentine educator and cardiac surgeon. He is best remembered for his work on coronary artery bypass surgery. Favaloro is credited with establishing the Favaloro Foundation in an attempt to emulate Cleveland Clinic. He is also credited with founding the Basic Investigation Laboratory, which was financed with his own money.

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 8 Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: August 29, 1910
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Iberia, Louisiana, United States
Died: November 26, 1985

Vivien Theodore Thomas was laboratory supervisor who never went to college; yet he rose above poverty and racism to develop a procedure for treating cyanotic heart disease. Initially billed as janitor, he began his career as assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock first at Nashville University and later at Johns Hopkins, and in time discovered the life-saving technique, eventually becoming a teacher of operative techniques.

 9 Mehmet Oz

Mehmet Oz
Famous As: Television personality
Birthdate: June 11, 1960
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Born to Turkish immigrants in the U.S., Mehmet Oz, better known as Dr. Oz, is a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and professor. He is known for his multiple appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and for his YOU series of self-help books. He has also hosted The Dr. Oz Show.

 10 C. Everett Koop

C. Everett Koop
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: October 14, 1916
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 25, 2013

C. Everett Koop was a pediatric surgeon and public health administrator who served as the 13th Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. Previously, he had been a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He was well-known for his support of the rights of children with disabilities and his work with AIDS patients. 

 11 Magdi Yacoub

Magdi Yacoub
Famous As: Heart Surgeon
Birthdate: November 16, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Belbin, Ashraqya, Egypt

Magdi Yacoub is a retired professor who worked at Imperial College London. He is best known for his work in repairing heart valves, a procedure which came to be known as the Ross-Yacoub procedure. In 1983, he performed the United Kingdom's first combined lung and heart transplant. Also a humanitarian, Yacoub co-founded the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Foundation in 2008.

 12 Younan Nowzaradan

Younan Nowzaradan
Famous As: Specializes in vascular surgery and bariatric surgery.
Birthdate: October 11, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tehran, Pahlavi Iran Imperial State of Iran

 13 Denton Cooley

Denton Cooley
Famous As: Heart Surgeon
Birthdate: August 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Houston, Texas
Died: November 18, 2016

Denton Cooley was a heart and cardiothoracic surgeon. He is best known for performing the first implantation of a total artificial heart. He did his surgical training at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and later worked at Baylor College of Medicine. He founded The Texas Heart Institute and was a consultant at Texas Children's Hospital. 

 14 Devi Shetty

Devi Shetty
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: May 8, 1953
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mangalore

Devi Shetty is an Indian cardiac surgeon and entrepreneur. He is best known as the founder of Narayana Health where he also serves as the chairman. Shetty, who has performed over 16,000 heart operations, was honored with the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award in 2012. His life and career inspired an episode of Netflix's series The Surgeon's Cut.

 15 Leonid Rogozov

Leonid Rogozov
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 14, 1934
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chita, Russia
Died: September 21, 2000

Leonid Rogozov was a Soviet general practitioner remembered for performing his own appendectomy as he developed appendicitis while stationed at Novolazarevskaya Station; he was part of the sixth Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1961 when he developed appendicitis. The self-surgery, which was documented by Rogozov’s colleagues, resulted in a change of policy and health checks were made mandatory during such expeditions.

 16 Jan Adams

Jan Adams
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: April 21, 1954
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Middletown

Cosmetic surgeon and TV personality Jan Adams made headlines after he conducted a liposuction, a tummy tuck, and a breast-reduction surgery on rapper Kanye West’s mother and she mysteriously died the following day. He has also penned books and appeared on shows such as Extra and The Other Half.

 17 John McCrae

John McCrae
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 30, 1872
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Died: January 28, 1918

Best known for his iconic war poems such as In Flanders Fields, Canadian poet John McCrae was also an army physician. He was the first Canadian to serve as a consulting surgeon for the British Army and had earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army.

 18 Daniel Hale Williams

Daniel Hale Williams
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: January 18, 1856
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: August 4, 1931

Daniel Hale Williams was a general surgeon known for performing the first documented, successful pericardium surgery in the US in 1893. Born to interracial parents, he faced numerous struggles in his journey to become a physician. He later founded the first non-segregated hospital in the United States, Chicago's Provident Hospital. He also founded a nursing school for African Americans. 

 19 Walter Jackson Freeman II

Walter Jackson Freeman II
Famous As: American physician
Birthdate: November 14, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: May 31, 1972

American neurologist Walter Jackson Freeman II is remembered for co-developing the technique of prefrontal lobotomy as a treatment for mental ailments, along with neurosurgeon James W. Watts. Though many of his patients died due to the treatment, he is still considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery.

 20 Robert Rey

Robert Rey
Birthdate: October 1, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: São Paulo

Brazilian American plastic-surgeon and television-presenter Roberto Rey featured on the American reality television series Dr. 90210 that focusses on plastic surgery in the affluent suburb of Beverly Hills, California. He is a member of the American Medical Association and the Los Angeles Medical Association. He unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies during the 2014 Brazilian general election.

 21 Vladimir Demikhov

Vladimir Demikhov
Famous As: Organ Transplant Pioneer
Birthdate: July 18, 1916
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Moscow
Died: November 22, 1998
While some called him a mad scientist, Vladimir Demikhov is now remembered as a pioneer of organ transplantation. The Soviet scientist coined the term transplantology and shocked the world by creating two-headed dogs, by attaching the head of one dog to the body of another. 

 22 Michael DeBakey

Michael DeBakey
Famous As: Cardiac Surgeon
Birthdate: September 7, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Died: July 11, 2008

Cardiac surgeon Michael DeBakey pioneered many treatments of cardiovascular ailments and also invented instruments such as the roller pump, later used for open-heart surgery procedures. He was also instrumental in developing MASH units and was awarded several prestigious awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

 23 Bassem Youssef

Bassem Youssef
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: March 22, 1974
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cairo, Egypt

 24 Werner Forssmann

Werner Forssmann
Famous As: Military physician, Surgeon, Urologist, Cardiologist
Birthdate: August 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: June 1, 1979

German physician Werner Forssmann is best-known for developing a method that allowed cardiac catheterization. This led him to jointly receive the 1956 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Forssmann started clinical application of cardiac catheterization in 1929, when he inserted a catheter into a vein of his forearm and safely passed it into his heart and took an X-ray picture of it.

 25 James Andrews

James Andrews
Famous As: surgeon
Birthdate: 1942 AD
Birthplace: Homer

One of the best-known American orthopedic sports surgeons, James Andrews has been associated with multiple sports teams, such as Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tampa Bay Rays. Among his clients are sports stars Michael Jordan and Tom Brady. He has also headed various organizations, such as the American Sports Medicine Institute.

 26 Victor Chang

Victor Chang
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: November 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Shanghai
Died: July 4, 1991

Born to Australian-born Chinese parents in Shanghai, cardiac surgeon Victor Chang grew up in Hong Kong, Myanmar, and Sichuan, in the aftermath of the Second Sino-Japanese War. His mother’s death from breast cancer made him study medicine. The pioneer of heart transplantation, Chang was killed in an extortion attempt.

 27 Naresh Trehan

Naresh Trehan
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: August 12, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo

Naresh Trehan is an Indian cardiothoracic and cardiovascular surgeon. Since 1991, Trehan has been serving as the personal surgeon of the President of India. Over the course of his illustrious career, Naresh Trehan has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Bidhan Chandra Roy Award, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award, and Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honor.

 28 Caldwell Esselstyn

Caldwell Esselstyn
Famous As: Nutritionist, Rower
Birthdate: December 12, 1933
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

 29 Garth Fisher

Garth Fisher
Famous As: Presenter
Birthdate: September 1, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mississippi

American plastic surgeon and television presenter Garth Fisher, who specializes in aesthetic/cosmetic plastic surgery of different parts of the body including the face, nose and breast, is best known as the plastic surgeon on ABC aired American reality television series Extreme Makeover. He was knighted Sir Garth Fisher to honour his contributions and feats the field of plastic surgery.

 30 Ernst-Günther Schenck

Ernst-Günther Schenck
Famous As: Surgeon, University teacher
Birthdate: October 3, 1904
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marburg
Died: December 21, 1998

While serving at the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, doctor Ernst-Günther Schenck created a protein sausage for Nazi troops, which was tested on the camp inmates, leading to many deaths. His experiences were later penned by him in his memoir, which inspired films such as Downfall.

 31 Antonia Novello

Antonia Novello
Famous As: Former Surgeon General
Birthdate: August 23, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Antonia Novello became the first female and the first person of Hispanic origin to become the U.S. surgeon general. Initially a pediatric nephrologist, she later switched to Public Health Service, after realizing she was too emotional to be a pediatrician. The Puerto Rican physician was also a UNICEF representative.

 32 Ludwig Stumpfegger

Ludwig Stumpfegger
Famous As: Military physician, Physician, Surgeon, Torturer
Birthdate: July 11, 1910
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Munich
Died: May 2, 1945

Nazi doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger was better known as Adolf Hitler's personal surgeon. He not only conducted gruesome experiments on female inmates of the concentration camps, but also helped kill Hitler’s dog and Magda Goebbels’s children in Hitler’s bunker, before he escaped and eventually committed suicide by consuming cyanide.

 33 Alfred Blalock

Alfred Blalock
Famous As: Surgeon
Birthdate: April 5, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Culloden, Georgia, United States
Died: September 15, 1964

Remembered as a medical pioneer and a much-loved mentor, Alfred Blalock is especially noted for his work on traumatic and hemorrhagic shock, which saved thousands of lives during WWII. Working with Vivien Thomas and Helen Taussig, he also developed the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt. Designed to treat children with Blue Baby Syndrome, it ushered a revolution in the field of cardiac surgery.

 34 Andrew Baldwin

Andrew Baldwin
Famous As: Biologist, Officer, Model
Birthdate: February 5, 1977
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster

Although best known for his appearances on the ABC reality dating show The Bachelor, Andrew James Baldwin is much more than just a television personality. A Medical Officer with US Navy, he is known for his humanitarian works and enthusiasm for triathlon, being named to the All-Navy triathlon team five times, besides competing internationally in numerous Half-Ironman and Ironman events.

 35 Zbigniew Religa

Zbigniew Religa
Famous As: Surgeon, Physician, University teacher
Birthdate: December 16, 1938
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Miedniewice, Masovian Voivodeship
Died: March 8, 2009

 36 Hamilton Naki

Hamilton Naki
Famous As: Medical technician
Birthdate: June 26, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ngcangane, South Africa
Died: May 29, 2005

Hamilton Naki was a laboratory assistant who worked alongside cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard in South Africa.  Despite not having a formal medical education, he was known for his dexterity with surgical equipment and his ability to teach medical students. Some sources claim he participated in the world's first human-to-human heart transplantation in 1967. 

 37 Jayant Patel

Jayant Patel
Famous As: Accused of gross negligence whilst working at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland, Australia
Birthdate: April 10, 1950
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Jamnagar, Gujarat, India

Indian-origin American surgeon Jayant Patel had a career chequered with medical negligence. After his medical license was restricted in the US, following a few cases of patient deaths, he was convicted for killing 3 patients at the Bundaberg Hospital in Australia and was banned from practicing in the country again.

 38 Sid Watkins

Sid Watkins
Famous As: Neurologist, Surgeon, Neurosurgeon, Physician
Birthdate: September 6, 1928
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Liverpool
Died: September 12, 2012

Eric Sidney Watkins or Professor Sid, as he was known within the Formula One fraternity, wanted to become a doctor since his childhood. An experienced neurosurgeon and academician, he later became Formula One's trackside consultant and safety adviser. He concentrated on creating sophisticated medical back-up necessary for providing timely treatment, thus saving many lives through prompt actions.

 39 Niall MacGinnis

Niall MacGinnis
Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: March 29, 1913
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Dublin, County Dublin, History of Ireland (1801–1923) Ireland
Died: January 6, 1977

 40 Jacques Rogge

Jacques Rogge
Famous As: Physician, Surgeon, Rugby union player
Birthdate: May 2, 1942
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Ghent

 41 Marci Bowers

Marci Bowers
Famous As: Gynaecologist
Birthdate: January 18, 1958
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: United States of America

Considered to be the first transgender to specialize in sex reassignment surgery, American gynecologist Marci Lee Bowers is also a specialist in functional clitoral restoration. Beginning her career in obstetrics and gynecology, she later apprenticed under Stanley Biber, the father of sex reassignment surgery, and Pierre Foldès, a pioneer in clitoral restoration, before setting up her independent practice in California.   

 42 Edward Dunlop

Edward Dunlop
Famous As: Prisoner of War
Birthdate: July 12, 1907
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wangaratta
Died: July 2, 1993

Edward Dunlop was an Australian surgeon who was held prisoner by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. After becoming a prisoner of war, Dunlop flaunted his leadership skills, for which he is remembered today. In 1988, he was included in the 200 Great Australians list.

 43 Thomas Starzl

Thomas Starzl
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: March 11, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Mars
Died: March 4, 2017

Thomas Starzl, the pioneer of the liver transplant surgery, initially wished to become a priest but deviated to medicine after the death of his mother from breast cancer. He is also known for his bestselling memoir, The Puzzle People, and for the documentary Burden of Genius, which was inspired by him.

 44 Grethe Rask

Grethe Rask
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: 1930 AD
Birthplace: Thisted, Denmark
Died: December 12, 1977

 45 Joseph E. Murray

Joseph E. Murray
Famous As: Plastic Surgeon
Birthdate: April 1, 1919
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Milford, Massachusetts, United States
Died: November 26, 2012

Nobel Prize-winning American plastic surgeon Joseph E. Murray is remembered for conducting the first kidney transplant on identical twins. He later used immunosuppressive drugs and thus successfully conducted kidney transplants from unrelated donors. The Harvard alumnus later also taught at his alma. He appears in the book Beyond Recognition.

 46 Charlie Teo

Charlie Teo
Famous As: Neurosurgery
Birthdate: December 24, 1957
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia

One of Australia’s best-known brain surgeons, Charlie Teo has been known for conducting operations that other surgeons would avoid for being too risky. Known for his excessively high fees, which have prompted patients to crowdfund operations, he later faced restrictions imposed by the Medical Council of NSW.

 47 Philipp Rosler

Philipp Rosler
Famous As: Politician, Physician
Birthdate: February 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Soc Trang, Vietnam

 48 Earle Page

Earle Page
Famous As: Prime minister of Australia
Birthdate: August 8, 1880
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Grafton, Australia
Died: December 20, 1961

Country Party leader Earle Page was not just Australia’s minister of health and commerce but had also been its prime minister for 19 days, after the death of prime minister Joseph Lyons. His efforts to bring about a comprehensive national health plan was appreciated by all. He was also knighted.

 49 Koh Poh Koon

Koh Poh Koon
Famous As: Member of the Parliament of Singapore
Birthdate: March 16, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Singapore

 50 Carlo Levi

Carlo Levi
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: November 29, 1902
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: January 4, 1975

Best known for his iconic documentary novel Christ Stopped at Eboli, Italian painter and author Carlo Levi had also studied medicine. His anti-fascist ideals and political activism got him exiled to Lucania. He was part of the neorealist and contemporary movements. He had also been a senator of the Italian parliament.