Paré, Ambroise (1510-1590)
Anatomie universelle du corps humain,…Paris: Iehan le Royer, 1561.
Les oeuvres de M. Ambroise Paré,… Paris: Gabriel Buon, 1575.
Les oeuvres d’Ambroise Paré,… Fourth edition. Paris: Gabriel Buon, 1585.
Beginning his career as a poorly educated barber-surgeon at nineteen, Ambroise Paré was eventually celebrated for his application of practical, instead of theoretical, knowledge in surgery. As an army surgeon, Paré gained recognition for abandoning several established practices and introducing more practical alternatives. He found that simply dressed gunshot wounds heal faster and are less painful than when treated with boiling oil, the previously accepted method. In the process, he dispelled the theory that gunshot wounds are poisonous. Also, he proposed the usage of the ligature instead of the cautery after amputation, and he introduced artificial limbs. He contributed much to the field of medicine by disproving incorrect and superstitious medical practices, and by increasing the accessibility of medical knowledge by writing in French rather than Latin as was the common practice.
Paré, in fact, knew no Latin, and while his works in the vernacular language brought him a wider audience, it also drew opposition from the scholarly establishment. Not receiving permission from the Paris Faculty of Medicine to publish his works in the vernacular, Paré was taken to court over the matter, but was protected by the king himself. The Reynolds Library has editions of Paré’s complete works, Les oeuvres, from its original publication in 1575 and a later version from 1585. This 1585 book was the last to be published in his lifetime, and it includes the addition of “Apology and Journeys”, a response to attacks on Paré by Etienne Gourmelen, dean of the Faculté de Médicine.
Paré also published an epitome of Vesalius’s Fabrica in French, making modern knowledge of anatomy accessible to the less educated surgeons. Used as a surgical manual throughout the 17th century, Paré’s Anatomie universelle du corps humain copied but also properly credited the anatomical illustrations of Vesalius.
Dict. Sci. Bio. Vol. 9-10, pp. 315-316; Doe, A biblio. of the works Ambroise Paré…, p. 11; Garrison, Hist. of Med., 4th Edition, pp. 224-226; Heirs of Hippocrates, 163; Not. Med. Books, p. 47; Reynolds Historical Library, Rare books and coll…, 3246, 3252-3253; A catal. of printed books in the Wellcome Hist. Med. Libr., Vol. I, 4819 & 4821.
Image: Portrait by E. Hamman of Ambroise Paré treating wounded soldiers; Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.