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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Update to the "A Moment in History" Series

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.

Václav Treitz
Vaclav Treitz

As part of the redesign of this website we added a sidebar called "A Moment in History". The objective is to create a series of articles to honor those individuals who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research. Later in the development of the series we became aware of other individuals who have contributed in different ways, but still added their life work to the advancement of medical knowledge, as is the case of Marcia Croker Noyes (1869-1946).

Who would not be moved by the work of Allesandra Gilliani (1307-1326), who is probably the first woman dissector in the history of Human Anatomy, with a tragic short life and a love story.

We also decided to add to this series Moments in History that have left a mark on health care, such as "The First Use of Anesthesia in Surgery", or the story of how many individuals and unknown, anonymous children helped to rid the Americas from the scourge of smallpox, in "The Balmis Expedition", 

Another line of articles in this series are those that honor individuals who have used anatomical and surgical knowledge to further other areas of human knowledge, such as that of Juan Vucetich, who used the anatomical differences in fingerprints to create the science of dactiloscopy.

Yet another line of articles are those that are more personal and dear to the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily", such as "The Ephraim McDowell House of Museum", or  "Interesting Discovery in and Ex-Libris".

Recently, I had to work in the Wangensteen Historical Library researching rare and antique medical books. The highlight of this work was to be able to read books by authors whose names are attached as eponyms to anatomical landmarks (Ligament of Treitz, Hesselbach's Triangle), pathologies (Koplik's spots), surgical procedures (Billroth I and II), medical maneuvers (Heimlich maneuver), and surgical instruments (Finochietto retractor). Of course, the names given here are but a small sample of what has been written to date.

As of today this series is now searchable, all you have to do is type "A Moment in History" in our search page, click on the "A Moment in History" link at the top of the sidebar, or click here

The image in this article is that of Dr. Vaclav Treitz. His eponymically named Ligament of Treitz is the most read article in this blog.

Original image, public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia.org.