Ambroise Paré (1509-1590)

Initially an army surgeon, he made discoveries in such fields as anatomy, physiology and therapeutics.

The father of modern surgery

  • Ambroise Paré (c. 1509-1590) © S.H.P.F.

Paré was born near Laval around 1509. After his apprenticeship in Angers and later in Paris, he continued his training at the Hotel Dieu hospital for three years and became master surgeon-barber in 1536. He enrolled as a surgeon in the Piedmont army and later aligned himself with vicomte de Rohan.

In 1552, he was appointed ordinary surgeon to King Henri II. He returned to the army and was taken prisoner by the Duke of Savoie.

He failed to save Henri II

  • Ambroise Paré peforming a surgery, engraving © Collection privée

After his release, he could not save Henri II who, in1559, had been fatally injured in a tournament. He remained the official surgeon for the kings that followed.

In 1572, when at Admiral de Coligny’s bedside, he narrowly escaped the Saint Barthelemy massacre.

Ambroise Paré is seen as the father of modern surgery and one of the pioneers of experimental science. He replaced the post-amputation practice of cauterisation with a red-hot iron by the ligature of arteries. He is the author of numerous treatises on surgery and medicine such as “The treatment of head wounds and fractures” “Méthode curative des plaies et fractures de la tête”) (Paris 1562), and “A treatise on the plague, smallpox and measles, along with a brief description of leprosy” (“Traité de la peste, de la petite vérole et de la rougeole avec une brève description de la lèpre”) (Paris 1568).

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