Ambroise Paré Biography (1510-1590)


The uneducated son of a country artisan, Ambroise Paré became the greatest surgeon of the sixteenth century. Renowned as much for his compassion ashis surgical skill, Paré guided his life with a humble credo of patient care: "I dressed him, God cured him."

Paré was born during an era when physicians considered surgery beneaththeir dignity; they left all cutting to the "lowly barber-surgeons." He served as an apprentice to a barber in his youth and, at the age of 19, went to Paris where he became a surgical student at the Hôtel Dieu hospital. After attaining the rank of master barber-surgeon in 1536, he joined the army asa regimental surgeon. Over the next 30 years, Paré developed a flourishing surgical practice while continuing to serve occasionally in the army. His medical writings and his fair treatment of soldiers regardless of their rank earned him considerable fame and, before his career ended, he had served as surgeon to four French kings.

During the siege of Turin in 1536-1537, Paré made his first great medical discovery. Gunshot wounds, a new medical condition, were considered to bepoisonous and were routinely treated by cauterization with boiling oil. WhenParé ran out of oil during the siege, he turned instead to simple dressings and soothing ointment, and immediately noted the improved condition ofhis patients. Paré popularized this revolutionary treatment in his Method of Treating Wounds in 1545.

Paré's second critical contribution to medicine was his promotion of ligature of blood vessels to prevent hemorrhage during amputations. Paré's classic Treatise on Surgery, written in 1564, disseminated knowledge of this life-saving technique. In this book, Paré also included several sections of De corporis fabrica, the authoritative work on anatomy written by Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), translated fromthe original Latin into French. This dramatically improved the training, development, and effectiveness of surgeons, most of whom could not read Latin andthus had no previous access to the seminal work.

The innovative Paré often developed new surgical techniques by departing from established practices. He advocated massage and designed a number ofartificial limbs as well as an artificial eye. He advanced obstetrics by reintroducing podalic version (the in utero turning of a fetus to a birthposition) and inducing premature labor in cases of uterine hemorrhage. As always, he spread knowledge of these discoveries through his writings in French.

Paré's role in disseminating surgical knowledge to the barber-surgeonsof his time and his efforts to elevate the status of surgery to a level of prestige and professionalism led him to be generally recognized as the Fatherof Modern Surgery.

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