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Meet Harold Gillies, a WWI surgeon who rebuilt faces for wounded soldiers

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Meet Harold Gillies, a WWI surgeon who rebuilt faces for wounded soldiers
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Miracle worker —

Ars speaks with Lindsey Fitzharris, historian and author about her new book The Facemaker .


British troops moving to the trenches east of Ypres in October 1917. A new book by historian Lindsey Fitzharris explores the stories of those soldiers who suffered severe facial injuries, and the pioneering surgeon who rebuilt their faces: Harold Gillies.

Enlarge / British troops moving to the trenches east of Ypres in October 1917. Lindsey Fitzharris has written a new book about the lives of soldiers who sustained severe facial injuries and the pioneering surgeon who restored their faces, Harold Gillies.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In August 1917, a World War I British soldier named John Glubb was hit in the face by a shell. He recalled blood pouring out in “torrents” and feeling something akin to a chicken bone moving around his left cheek. The impact had caused half his jaw to break off.

Glubb wasn’t the only unfortunate WWI soldier to suffer a disfiguring facial injury. Shrapnel shells were made to cause as much damage possible. Because soldiers had to look over the parapets of trenches in order to see the battlefield and fire shots, there was a higher chance of being struck in the face with flying metal. These soldiers were subject to social stigmas and professional discrimination when they returned from the front, unlike losing a limb. These soldiers were often reduced to night shifts, and placed on special blue benches in public to warn others not to look at them.

Fortunately for these men, a New Zealand-born surgeon named Harold Gillies devoted his life to developing innovative techniques for reconstructing faces after witnessing the carnage firsthand during his service at the front. After returning home, he established a special ward at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot for soldiers suffering from facial injuries. His superiors eventually approved of the establishment of a dedicated hospital. He’s often referred to as the “father of plastic surgery” because of his pioneering work at The Queen’s Hospital (later renamed Queen Mary’s Hospital) at Frognal House in Sidcup.

Gillies is a key figure in a new book by author and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris, entitled The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon’s Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I. A noted science communicator with a large Twitter following and a fondness for the medically macabre, Fitzharris published a biography of surgical pioneer Joseph Lister, The Butchering Art, in 2017–a great, if occasionally grisly, read.

Her work soon caught the attention of the Smithsonian Channel, who tapped Fitzharris to host their 2020 documentary series revisiting infamous historical cold cases, The Curious Life and Death Of…. Fitzharris is a prolific writer with many book ideas in the works. For instance, she has a children’s book coming out next year illustrated by her husband, cartoonist/caricaturist Adrian Teal, and is already working on a third book about a 19th-century surgeon named Joseph Bell, who inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

The Facemaker was not her first choice for a follow-up to The Butchering Art, since she wasn’t that knowledgeable about World War I. Fitzharris was drawn to Gillies’ story by her publisher, and she gave herself a crash course on the history of World War I. The Butchering Art is hyper-focused on one man, Joseph Lister, who applied germ theory to medical practice,” Fitzharris told Ars. This book is not about one man but about many men. This book is about Harold Gillies who was a pioneering surgeon and rebuilt the faces of soldiers during the First World War. But it also features these men with disfigured bodies. I hope their voices are heard in the story. “

Ars spoke with Fitzharris to learn more.

(Warning: Some graphic facial reconstruction photos and descriptions follow. )

US Army trainees in trenches on the Western Front during World War I, France, 1918. The need to peer over the parapets resulted in a dramatic rise in facial injuries from shrapnel, often quite disfiguring.

Enlarge / US Army trainees in trenches on the Western Front during World War I, France, 1918. The need to see over the parapets led to a dramatic increase in facial injuries due shrapnel, sometimes quite disfiguring.

Archive Photos/Getty Images

Ars Technica: This is such a massive topic. How did you narrow down the topic so it was manageable?

Lindsey Fitzharris: It’s true, it was a much more complicated story. It took me five years just to get to grips with World War I’s complexity, and the military medicine of that time with all its complex advances. The challenge of World War I is the sheer amount of material available: there are so many letters and diaries from soldiers who write about their experiences. Someone asked me about the differences between academic and commercial history. Much of my work now involves discarding information. While I absorb a lot of information in my research, I am not trying to overwhelm the reader. I want to feel the pulse of the story.

I knew I wanted to drop the reader into the trenches right from the beginning. Percy Clair, a man who lived in England, wrote this wonderful diary which allowed me to share the story of being injured and then hit in the face. It was quite the experience to lie on the battlefield for a while before you are recovered. Because Clair was originally sent to the wrong hospital, I wanted readers to see how difficult it was to get off the battlefield and to reach Gillies.

There were also complications around accessing patient files in the UK, and what you can and can’t say with regard to a patient’s name. When I’m using a patient’s name in The Facemaker, it’s because that knowledge is public, or Gillies himself had published it at some point. Gillies may have published information about a patient. If I looked into the case files, and found additional information, that information could not be used in relation to that person’s name. The Butchering Art didn’t have that complication because it was set in the 19th century. We didn’t need to worry about it because everything was so old. However, a lot of The Facemaker material is under copyright. Percy Clair’s relatives had to be contacted in order to obtain permission to quote from his journal to the extent I did.

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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