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".

Sources:
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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The presence of Andreas Vesalius in Zakynthos (1)

Bust of Vesalius in Zakynthos
Bust of Vesalius in Zakynthos

The island of Zakynthos is one of the Ionian Islands found 155 miles (250 km) to the West of Athens. It is to the South of Macedonia, the island of Odysseus. It is also known as Zanthe or Zante, both pronunciations of the medieval Italian name for this island.

In October 15, 1564 Andreas Vesalius died suddenly at the gates of the main city of the island, also called Zakynthos, after a long and perilous return voyage from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The details of this trip and his potential cause of death will be covered in subsequent articles.

As famous as Vesalius is today, you would think that it would be easy to find information as to his grave and presence in the island. This is not so. Vesalius last trip to Jerusalem, his return, his death has been to date shrouded in mystery and legend. Some of these have been clarified in the 2014 Vesalius Continuum meeting in Zakynthos.

Plaque on the Bust of Vesalius in Zakynthos
Plaque on the Bust of Vesalius in Zakynthos

There are a few reminders of the presence of Vesalius on the island. The first one is a marble bust found in a small triangular plaza found about 100 yards from the building of the Municipality of Zakynthos and the Dionysios Solomos Square(Πλατεία Διονυσίου Σολωμού). The plaza was initially called “Vesal square” and later was renamed after the former major of Zakynthos, Fotis Ladikos.

Described by O’Malley (1965) in his well-known Vesalius’ biography, I had a difficult time finding the bust, although it is on the main street in front of the sea looking at the port, as most locals do not know about it. It was only by chance that one of the attendees to the meeting, Dr. Kenneth Wise found it close to a well-known Greek Restaurant, the Gallo D’Oro (Golden Rooster). It was also by chance that he and I talked about it when discussing Dr. Wise’s book on Vesalius entitled “All Else Is Mortal”.

 

The marble bust has a barely readable marble plaque that reads in Greek:

ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΒΕΖΑΛ
ΕΓΕΝΝΗΘΗ ΕΙΣ ΒΡΥξΕλλΕΣ 1-2-1515
ΑΠΕΘΑΝΕ ΕΝ ΖΑΚΥΝΘΩ 15-10-1564

ANDREAS VESALIUS
BORN IN BRUSSELS 1-2-1515
DIED IN ZAKYNTHOS 15-10-1564

This plaque has the wrong date of birth, as it is well documented that Andreas Vesalius was born on the early morning of December 31st, 1514, , making the year 2014 the 500th anniversary of his birth and the 450th  anniversary of this death. This is the year when I spent a week in Zakynthos.

Continued here.