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.

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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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William S. Halsted, MD

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.

William S. Halsted, MD
William S. Halsted, MD

William S. Halsted, MD (1852 – 1922) American anatomist, teacher, and surgeon, William Stewart Halsted was born in New York City, USA to a wealthy family of English origin. His father was involved in charitable work and Governor and trustee to a city hospital. Not a brilliant student initially, Halsted took an undergraduate in Liberal Arts in Yale, CT., after which he entered the Medical College of Physicians at the Columbia College, where he excelled.

As a second-year medical student Halsted applied and obtained a position in surgery at a local hospital. In here he learned about Lister’s antiseptic technique and became an adamant proponent of it to reduce infection. In 1877 Halsted obtained his MD. After a short time as House Physician at the New York Hospital, Halsted traveled to Europe to further his education studying for two years at the Universities of Vienna, Leipzig, and W?rzburg.

Besides being at the forefront of surgical and antiseptic techniques (introducing the use of rubber gloves in surgery), Halsted was extremely concerned with the way medical students were taught in the US. He pioneered bedside clinical round discussions with the medical students after two years of basic sciences studies. Halsted developed the idea of a patient chart; he also developed the residency program for medical students in use today.

Halsted is probably the most influential researcher and surgeon at the turn of the century. He dedicated time to the study of intestinal anastomoses and the use of silk as a suture material. His experimental work in 1887 proved that the inclusion of the submucosa layer in an anastomosis was mandatory, as well that a single layered anastomosis was enough to attain closure. Perhaps Halsted’s most important contribution was the application and use of the scientific method to surgical questions. Halsted’s principles set the standards used today in surgical suturing and surgical stapling.

He also pioneered the development and surgical techniques for radical mastectomy as a treatment for breast cancer.

As a side effect of this studied in anesthesia and the use of cocaine for anesthesia, Halsted became addicted to this substance, a problem that followed him through the years. Without impairing his capacity as a researcher and a surgeon, Halsted eventually recovered. He died in Baltimore in 1922 as a complication to surgery.

1. Dubay, A. D., & Franz, G. M. (2003). Acute Wound Healing: The Biology of Acute Wound Failure. Surg Clin NA, 83, 463-481.
2. Halsted, W. S. (1887). Circular Suture of the Intestine - An Experimental Study. Am J Med Sci, 436-461.
3. “William Stewart Halsted: his life and contributions to surgery” Osborne, P. Lancet Oncol 2007; 8: 256–65
4. “William Stewart Halsted: Surgical pioneer” Burress, P Endoc Today (2010), 8: (2) 22
5. “William Stewart Halsted (1852–1922) Neurological stamp” Haas, LF J Neurol Neurosurg Psych 2000;69:641

Original image courtesy of "Images from the History of Medicine" at