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 landscape panorama of Vesalius’ “Muscle Men” (1)

 Eight-series landscape panorama of Vesalius' muscle men plates. Paintings attributed to Jan Stephan Van Calcar

UPDATED: There is no doubt that the book “De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem” written by Andreas Vesalius and published by Johannes Oporinus in May, 1543 is one of the most important scientific anatomical and medical books ever written. Much has been said about the place this book has in medical history as part of the discarding of dogmas and the establishment of scientific observation and thinking.

Some of the most intriguing images published in the book are fourteen woodcuts in the second book. These amazing and detailed images show the muscles in a whole body as it is dissected. The text details the structures and the procedure of how the dissection is performed.

It is believed that these images were done by Jan Stephan Van Calcar, an artist from the Titian’s studio, although there are indications that these images may have been authored by somebody else, or even that they were the effort of more than one artist working under the close supervision of Andreas Vesalius.

Today’s anatomical images are very descriptive and the artistry is relegated to the technique used for the depiction of the image. In Vesalius’ muscle men plates each image has a background showing a landscape. It was not until 1903 that it was discovered that the landscapes of the different images were part of a complete landscape. This is evident if these images are placed side by side. There have been several books and articles published on these images. Interestingly, some of the images had to be reversed to be placed in the panorama. This is due to the process of cutting the woodblocks.

The image in this article is one of two identified and composed by Harvey Cushing in 1943 (see sources). He calls it the "eight-series". The "six-series" can be seen here. To see Cushing's original template click here. The panorama of the six-series was identified by Cushing to be an area of the Euganean hills near Venice and Padua, Italy. There landscape formed by the eight-series is an actual region near Padua, Italy showing the ruins of old Roman baths. Cavanagh (1938) adds more information on these images, for his .pdf article, click here.

The image shown at the top of this article was created using original images from Vesalius’ Fabrica and composed using Adobe Fireworks CS5. Click on the image for a larger depiction. The large image is 1800px wide.

NOTE: In June 2023, I was able to purchase a single leaf of the 1543 Fabrica, page 187, which depicts one of the "muscle men". In the panorama image in this article it is figure number 3, from left to right. For more information on this image click here. This image is now properly framed in my office. Dr. Miranda.

This article continues here: "The landscape panorama of Vesalius' Muscle Men (2)"

Sources:
1. “A New View of the Vesalian Landscape” Cavanagh,  GST Med Hist 1983, 27: 77-79
2. “The Panorama of Vesalius: A 'Lost' Design From Titian's Studio” Skandalakis, JE JAMA May 28, 1997, Vol 277, No. 20
3. “A Drawing for the Fabrica; and some Thoughts Upon the Vesalius Muscle-Men” Kemp. M. Med Hist. Jul 1970; 14(3): 277–288
4. “Andreas Vesalius: The Making, the Madman and the Myth” Joffe, SN. Persona Publishing 2009
5. "A Bio-Bibliography of Andreas Vesalius" Cushing, H. (1943) Schumann's

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