Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community. We post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

You are welcome to submit questions and suggestions using our "Contact Us" form. The information on this blog follows the terms on our "Privacy and Security Statement" and cannot be construed as medical guidance or instructions for treatment.

We have 106 guests online

A Moment in History

Jean-Louis Petit

Jean Louis Petit
(1674 – 1750)

French surgeon and anatomist, Jean Louis Petit was born in Paris in on March 13, 1674.  His family rented an apartment at his house to Alexis Littre (1658 – 1726), a French anatomist. Petit became an apprentice of Littre at seven years of age, helping him in the dissections for his lectures and at an early age became the assistant in charge of the anatomic amphitheater.

Because of Petit’s dedication to anatomy and medicine, in 1690 at the age of sixteen, became a disciple of a famous Paris surgeon, Castel.

In 1692, Petit entered the French army and performed surgery in two military campaigns. By 1693 he started delivering lectures and was accepted as a great surgeon, being invited to the most difficult operations.  In 1700 he was appointed Chief Surgeon of the Military School in Paris and in the same year he received the degree of Master of Surgery from the Faculty of Paris.

In 1715 he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Royal Society of London. He was appointed by the King as the first Director General of the Royal Academy of Surgery when it was founded in 1731.

Petit’s written works are of historical importance.  “Traite des Maladies des Os” ( A Treatise on Bone Diseases);  “Traite des Maladies Chirurgicales et des Operation” (A Treatise on Surgical Diseases and their Operations” This last book was published posthumously in 1774. He also published a monograph on hemorrhage, another on lachrymal fistula, and others.

He was one of the first to perform choIecystotomy and mastoidotomy. His original tourniquet design for amputations saved many in the battlefield and the design of the same surgical instrument today has not changed much since its invention by him.

His name is remembered in the lumbar triangle, also called the "triangle of Petit", and the abdominal hernia that can ensue through that area of weakness, the lumbar hernia or "Petit's hernia".

1. “Jean Louis Petit – A Sketch of his Life, Character, and Writings” Hayne, AP San Fran Western Lancet 1875 4: 446-454
2. “Oeuvres compl?tes de Jean-Louis Petit” 1837 Imprimerie de F. Chapoulaud
3. Extraits de l'eloge de Jean-Louis Petit Ius dans Ia seance publique de I' Academie royale de chirurgie du 26 mai 1750” Louis A. Chirurgie 2001: 126 : 475- 81

 "Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.

Click here for more information

abebooks banner



"Primum Non Nocere"

UPDATED: This Latin aphorism is at the core of Medicine and Surgery. It means "Above all, do no harm". Another translation would be "First, do no harm". The works of Hippocrates mentions the concept in his book Epidemics , and it has been presented in one way or another trough the ages. Thomas Sydenham (1624 - 1689), an English physician, is probably the first one to use it in an English publication, although his Latin phrase was "Primum est ut, non nocere". The first use of the modern phrasing "Primum Non Nocere" was by Lewis Atterbury Stimson (1844 - 1917), an American surgeon in 1879.

It seems almost counterintuitive that surgery would attempt to do no harm, but this is what moves innovation. From sharper needles that require less force to penetrate, and sharper scalpels that cause less trauma to tissues, to surgical staplers and minimally invasive techniques that attempt to reduce the size of the incision and the overall damage to the tissues.

Image courtesy of Dr. Randall Wolf.
The design of new surgical devices and new surgical techniques should always attempt to answer to this most important rule of surgery: "Primum Non Nocere".

As a point of interest, the Latin term [nocere] is the basis for the medical term [noxa] means "injury", "harm", or damage", this being the root for the term [noxious] 

1. "Origin and Uses of Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm!"  Smith, CM J Clin Pharmacol 2005 45 (4): 371–377
2. "On abdominal drainage of adherent portions of ovarian cysts as a substitute for completed ovariotomy" Stimson LA Am J Med Sci 1879;78:88-100.

MTD Main Page Subscribe to MTD