Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Additional French surgeons

By the close of the fourteenth century, France emerged as the preeminent center of European surgical practice. Its early pioneers included Theodoric Borgognoni of Lucca (1205–1296), who played a pivotal role in elevating surgery from a craft to a respected medical discipline; Guido Lanfranc of Milan (1250–1315), who further refined surgical techniques; and Henri de Mondeville (1260–1320), who emphasized in his writings the importance of cleanliness and asepsis during surgery.

The notable French surgeons featured in this journal are Guy de Chauliac (1300–1368)1; Ambroise Paré (1510–1590)2-4; Jean Mery (1645–1772)7; Nicolas Andry (or Bois Verminoso)8; Pierre Fauchard9; Dominique-Jean Larrey (1766–1842)10,11; Guillaume Dupuytren (1777–1835)12; and Jacques Lisfranc12 (1787–1847).

Additionally, covered here are:

Charles-François Félix (1635–1703),5,6 the barber-surgeon who operated successfully on the anal fistula of King Louis XIV. The king had been suffering from this painful and debilitating condition and had not responded to conservative treatments. Félix devised a new surgical procedure by using a knife called a “bistouri caché” (sharp-pointed blade knife) and an anal retractor, and after practicing on seventy-five people, he operated on November 18, 1686. The king recovered; Félix was given land, a title, and a huge reward. The profession of barber-surgeons received a boost, the training and prestige of its members eventually becoming the same as those of physicians.

Pierre Dionis (1643–1718) was one of the most successful and prestigious surgeons of his time. Born in Paris, he attended free classes and demonstrations at an institution created by Louis XIII and known as the Royal Garden. This had remained abreast of the latest scientific advances and surpassed the Faculty of Medicine in academic excellence. Dionis began to practice there around 1661 and gave lectures on anatomy and surgery that often drew crowds numbering in the hundreds. He remained at the Royal Garden until 1680 and was appointed surgeon to the king and to Queen Maria Theresa of France. He introduced new methods of treating head injuries, skull fractures, and bleeding during amputations, and assisted in the treatment of the King’s lower limb gangrene that resulted in amputation. He pioneered aseptic techniques and published a comprehensive text on surgical procedures, followed in 1707 by an anatomy textbook that became standard reference for students and practitioners.

Pierre-Joseph Desault (1738–1795) was born in the region of the Jura mountains and was inclined to serve the Church before being interested in anatomy and surgery and becoming apprenticed as a barber-surgeon. At age twenty in 1766 he went to Paris, began to give lectures in anatomy, and was admitted in 1776 to the guild of surgeons. Appointed to La Charite in 1782, he moved two years later to the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital and within a few years was recognized as one of the leading surgeons of France. He developed new techniques for treating fractures and ligating arteries in cases of aneurysm, established a surgical clinic where he trained a generation of French surgeons, and set up an innovative dissection laboratory for students. In 1793 he fell afoul of the Revolutionary authorities, was briefly imprisoned but released, and in1795 was summoned to treat the gravely ill son of the executed Louis XVI but died before he could visit him.

In Hektoen International

  1. George Dunea. Healthcare for the popes. Moments in History. Spring 2018.
  2. Ambroise Paré shown amputating a leg on the battlefield. Surgery. Spring 2020.
  3. Mildred Wilson. Ambroise Pare: Standard bearer for barber-surgery reform. Winter 2000.
  4. Lila Haile. Ambroise Paré. Surgery. Summer 2012.
  5. George Dunea. Louis XIV and his ailments. Moments in History: Vignettes. Winter 2019.
  6. Bonello and Hasan. It is good to be the king: The French surgical revolution. Surgery. Fall 2019.
  7. George Dunea. Jean Mery, distinguished French surgeon. Surgery. Spring 2020.
  8. Fadlurrahman Manaf. Homini Verminoso, who created “Orthopaedia.” Surgery. Spring 2019.
  9. Brody Fogleman et al. Pierre Fauchard (1678–1761), dentistry’s founding father. Surgery. Spring 2023.
  10. Stavros Gourgiotis. Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey: founder of military surgery and trauma care. War and Veterans. Spring 2016.
  11. George Dunea. Dominique-Jean Larrey, Napoleon’s army surgeon (1766-1842). Surgery. Winter 2015.
  12. Anne Jacobson. Christmas with Dupuytren and Lisfranc. Surgery. Fall 2016.

GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief

Spring 2024



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