Loyal Davis wrote that "the story of the American College of Surgeons is that of the development and progress of surgery in America. No other medical organization, voluntarily entered into by its Fellows, has exerted such a profound influence on the discipline and art of surgery in the United States."
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) began because of an imaginative thinker, Franklin Martin, MD, who conceived and brought to reality great organization achievements. First, he established the journal, then called Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics (SG&O) in 1905, and then by 1913 the American College of Surgeons.
Franklin Martin was born in Wisconsin of parents who had come from Canada and Pennsylvania. Martin was farmhand, brickmaker, and school teacher until encouraged by an aunt to study medicine. He graduated from the Chicago Medical College in 1880, and in 1883 founded the Chicago South-Side Medico-Social Society where scientific papers could be presented, providing training in public speaking. Among his many interests was pursuing the potential to publish first-rate scientific papers; he disliked the journals that were published and owned by commercial printing companies. One of his golfing friends was Thomas E. Donnelly, a son of R. R. Donnelly who was part of the printing company. By September 1904 Franklin Martin had assembled backing to produce the first volume of Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics, edited by "practical men of authority in their respective specialties." The first issue July 1, 1905, contained 112 pages, 30 devoted to advertising. By 1906 there were 2800 subscribers, and pages had increased to 140 per issue. Meetings of The Transactions of the American Gynecological Society, the American Surgical Association, and the Chicago Gynecological Society were detailed in the journal.
By 1910 the journal was successful and influential. Now Martin wanted to invite subscribers to visit the surgical clinics of Chicago, organized by the journal. This first attempt to gather an audience for clinical teaching hoped to register 200 for a two-week program; 1300 doctors overwhelmed the facilities.
After the successful program, a society was formed, "The Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America," and it would hold annual meetings at large centers of clinical interest. Membership in this clinical group was offered to all reputable surgeons who were subscribers to its official publication, SG&O; membership also was extended to registrants of each year's meeting. The second Clinical Congress was held in Philadelphia in 1911, and by 1912 in New York City, the meeting had been reduced to a week, with a preliminary program published in the journal. By this time, Martin was energized by the belief that he could organize future surgical education into a College of Surgeons. At the next meeting, in May of 1913, in Washington, DC, the American College of Surgeons had its beginning; the fourth Clinical Congress was held in November 1913 with more than 4,000 registered attendees.
Franklin H. Martin had made inseparable Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics, and the American College of Surgeons. JACS is proud to continue the fine tradition.
Loyal Davis, MD, FACS (1938–1982)
G. Tom Shires, MD, FACS (1983–1993)
Samuel A. Wells Jr., MD, FACS 1994–1996)
Seymour I. Schwartz, MD, FACS (1997–2004)
Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, FACS (2004–present)