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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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Pavlos Plessas

Pavlos Plessas was born and brought up on the island of Zakynthos (Zante) in Greece. He lives in London but maintains an internet blog that explores the history of his native island. He is a historian of the island and an internet blogger.

Knowing the island, its history and its people he never believed that Vesalius was shipwrecked, left to die helpless and buried near the beach of Laganas. When the local interest in Vesalius was rekindled by the visit of Pascale Pollier and Theo Dirix, he tried to separate the evidence from rumours and speculation to see if a rational explanation of the mystery could be found.

He was approached by Pascale Pollier and Theo Dirix and asked to assist in their search for Vesalius' grave. With the help of local people and old maps he found the approximate location of the Santa Maria church, by which Vesalius had been buried. The scientific work of Dr. Sylviane Dederix confirmed that this was indeed the spot where the church once stood.

Thanks to Pavlos Plessas for collaborating with "Medical Terminology Daily" and allowing us to re-publish his work on "Powerful indications that Vesalius died from scurvy", presented originally at the 2014 "Vesalius Continuum" meeting in Zakynthos, Greece.

Pavlos Plessas

UPDATE: Pavlos' article and theory was refutted by Theor Dirix and Dr. Rudi Coninx. both contributors to this blog. Their article is entitled "Did Andreas Vesalius really die from Scurvy?". Not to be undone, Pavlos published his own rebuttal to their theory in the article "An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius".

Following are some links to Pavlos Plessas' blog articles:

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