Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) is one of the founding fathers of surgery. Born in a village near Laval-in-Maine, France, Paré became an apprentice to a barber-surgeon at the age of 15 and went on to become a surgical dresser at the Hotel Dieu in Paris. A self-taught man with no formal university education, he based his knowledge on experience and a keen sense of observation.
He split his time between his practice in Paris and his duties as an army surgeon in France’s many wars. During this time, he stressed the importance of arterial ligation during amputation to control hemorrhage and devised an alternative to the treatment of gunshot wounds with boiling oil, the common practice of the time. After successfully curing several high-ranking noblemen, his reputation reached King Henry II, and he was appointed first royal surgeon in 1551.
Ambroise Paré’s work in obstetrics is less known even though he founded several schools for midwives. He also wrote De la generation de l’homme—a building block in the foundation of obstetrics. Of particular interest to pediatric neurosurgeons are Paré’s descriptions of cephalohematoma—a result of forceful labor—and dystocia, a consequence of prenatal hydrocephalus and conjoined twins. Known for his practical attitude, he wrote, “Hee that would performe any great and notable worke, must diligently apply himselfe to the knowledge of his subject.”
1. “I bandaged him, and God healed him.”
Dunn, Peter M. 1994. “Ambroise Paré (1510-1590): surgeon and obstetrician of the Renaissance.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 71: F231-F232.
Vinchon, Matthieu. 2009. “Ambroise Paré, surgery, and obstetrics.” Childs Nerv Syst 25: 639-640. doi:10.1007/s00381-008-0775-5.
Lila Haile, Associate Editor