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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

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Sunao Tawara, M.D.

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.
Sunao Tawara, M.D. (1873 - 1952) Sunao Tawara was born in the prefecture of Ooita, Kyushu, Japan. Adopted by an uncle (and physician), Tawara studied English and German, and went on to the University of Tokyo medical school, where he graduated an MD in 1901.

In 1903 he traveled to Marburg, Germany, where he started working with Dr. Karl Albert Ludwig Aschoff (1866-1942), a noted pathologist. Tawara’s work led him to the discovery of what today we call the “atrioventricular node” (AV node) and the connections of the AV node and the Bundle of His (the right and left bundle branch). His work with Aschoff led to the eponym of “node of Aschoff-Tawara” for the AV node. Tawara’s work also led to the understanding of the function of the Purkinje fibers. Tawara gave the entire system the name “Reitzleitungssytem” or the “conduction system” of the heart.

In 1906 Dr. Tawara published his discoveries in a German-language article entitled “The Conduction System of the Mammalian Heart — An Anatomicopathological Study on the Atrioventricular Bundle and the Purkinje Fibers”. The same year he returned to Japan and in 1908 became Professor of Pathology at the University of Kyushu until his retirement in 1933.

Dr. Sunao TawaraOriginal imagecourtesy of Wikipedia.
1. "Sunao Tawara" Suma, K. Clin Cardiol (1991) 14; 442-443
2. "Sunao Tawara, A Cardiac Pathophysiologist" Loukas, M. et al Clinical Anatomy 21:2–4 (2008)
3. "Sunao Tawara: A Father of Modern Cardiology" Suma, K. J Pacing Clin Electrophysiol (2001) 24:1; 88- 96
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