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The International College of Surgeons (ICS) is a global organization dedicated to promoting excellence of surgeons and surgical specialists worldwide.

It was founded in 1935 by Max Thorek and is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

ICS works though collaborative projects with the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and similar organizations.

The organization publishes the journal "International Surgery".

It conducts conferences, meetings, and congresses in many countries of the world. It operates the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago, the only museum devoted to surgery in North America.


The International College of Surgeons was founded in 1935 by Dr. Max Thorek, (born March 10, 1880, Hungary, died January 25, 1960, Chicago). He was also co-founder of the American Hospital in Chicago, and his contributions to the art of surgery earned worldwide recognition.


Life intruded on Thorek's preparations for school at home in Budapest when his brother died in a pogrom led by the local community. Shortly after the death of his brother, the family emigrated to Chicago where Thorek attended the University of Chicago for his undergraduate studies.


In 1904, he received his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. Then, after serving his internship in obstetrics, Thorek opened his first office in Chicago's West Side slums. In his work on the West Side, he practiced general medicine for several years before turning to general surgery. Together with Solomon Greenspahn in 1908 he established the American Hospital and was its chief surgeon until his death.


After World War I, Thorek devoted considerable time to research, especially in the field of reconstructive surgery. In the 1930s he perfected a surgical technique that significantly reduced the mortality rate in gallbladder operations. During this period, he felt the need for an international organization of surgeons dedicated to maintaining the highest possible standards of surgery and at the same time providing instruction for younger men. The International College of Surgeons was established by him for these purposes in Geneva in 1935. He contributed to many medical journals; among his books are Surgical Errors and Safeguards (1932) and Modern Surgical Technic (1938).



To foster worldwide surgical excellence through education, training, fellowship and humanitarian efforts

Surgeons need to come together as a community, to grow with one another and have the access to the knowledge and experience of their peers to succeed. Max Thorek saw that in 1935, and founded this organization to meet that goal. His vision was to improve the lives of patients through the development and education of our members and the advancement of the medical field. It’s about the people, and the impact we, as surgeons, have on our patients every day.

"There is no human calling which demands from those who follow it a greater endowment of the best human qualities and the highest developments of technical knowledge and skill than art of surgery.”

—Max Thorek, Modern Surgery, 1939

International Museum of Surgical Science

Visit Us

1524 N Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642 6502

Opening Hours

Monday9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Tuesday9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Wednesday9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Friday9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Dr. Max Thorek founded the International College of Surgeons (ICS) in 1935, with the goals of promoting the exchange of surgical knowledge worldwide. The Museum was originally conceived as the ICS Hall of Fame, and as a repository for its growing collection of historically significant surgical instrumentation, artworks and manuscripts. 

Beginning in 1950, through the efforts of Dr. Thorek, the Museum received additional donations of objects and artwork from many of the national sections of the ICS, individual surgeons and collectors, and other institutions. Shipments of artifacts, paintings, sculptures, and books arrived, and the Museum began to take shape. To house the Museum, a historic lakeside mansion was acquired, adjacent to the ICS headquarters.

The Museum opened to the public on September 9, 1954. One of the first exhibits to be installed was the Hall of Immortals, containing twelve large stone statues of great figures in the field of medicine and the allied sciences. In further reference to great scientists, surgeons and discoveries of the past, a Hall of Murals was created with a series of large paintings depicting the development of surgical science through the ages.

In 1959, the Museum marked the dedication of galleries devoted to France, Mexico, Spain and the Netherlands, with many more of these national rooms inaugurated over the ensuing years. The founding leaders of the Museum hoped to make the collection meaningful to the public by organizing exhibits by nation. Each room, hallway, and stair landing were devoted to one nation or region’s historical collection with the intention of tracing a particular nation’s contribution to surgery.

Beginning in 1990, new exhibits were developed based on historical themes and surgical disciplines.

Over the past two decades, the International Museum of Surgical Science has made significant progress in strengthening its educational programs and exhibits, as well as in the conservation of its noteworthy collections and historic landmark building. Today, the Museum’s four floors are filled with extraordinary artifacts that interpret the prehistoric through contemporary healing practices. 

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