History of ASCRS

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons was established in 1899. Its initial mission was to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge relating to the colon, rectum, and anus; to encourage proctologic research; and to advance the specialty of colon and rectal surgery. Colon and rectal surgery is one of the oldest recognized specialties.  Writings dating as early as 1250 B.C. dealt with anorectal diseases and indicate there were practitioners devoted to this specialty.  

In 1878, Dr. Joseph McDowell Mathews of Louisville, Kentucky, was the first physician in the world to dedicate his practice exclusively to this specialty. During Dr. Mathews’ tenure as President of the American Medical Association in 1899, he met with twelve colleagues who were also committed to the specialty and founded the American Proctologic Society on June 6, 1899, with Dr. Mathews serving as its first President. Its purpose was “the cultivation and dissemination of knowledge in whatever related to diseases of the colon and rectum” and this basic purpose has guided the Society throughout its existence.  In 1973, the American Proctologic Society changed its name to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons to indicate more clearly the scope of its members’ special interest.

1950s_dinner.jpgView the historical scrapbook, which begins with news articles dating back the late 1800s. Enjoy the rich history of the Society and read about the early leadership and their many accomplishments.  

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article in the scrapbook, dated June, 1897:

Dr. Joseph M. Mathews was born in 1847, and graduated in medicine in 1867. He immediately began th e practice of his profession in his native county, where he remained, actively engaged in practice, for five years. He then removed to Louisville and practiced general medicine until 1878. In that year Dr. Mathews visited England and studied under Allingham, the celebrated proctologist at St. Marks Hospital in London. After thorough training under this great master, Dr. Mathews returned to America and became the pioneer specialist in in this country of rectal diseases. 

In 1999, the ASCRS published a unique book to commemorate the Society’s 100th Anniversary. View the History of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons from 1899-1999 and read about the Society's development and growth, the establishment of the Diseases of the Colon & Rectum Journal, the Research Foundation and much more. 

2022 ASCRS History Symposium



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