In our modern life, we are so used to the comfort of life – electricity, the Internet, medicaments for any disease, that we take it for granted. However, all the medical achievements come from the hard work of many determined scientists. And let’s not underestimate the role of the French medical scientists.
The first stethoscope (a medical device used for body examination), was invented by René Laennec. But he is mostly known for his medical achievements in the pathological anatomy.
To study the symptoms of lung diseases, Laennec needed methods for their diagnosis that didn’t exist at the time, which is why he created the stethoscope. The scientist was first to use the cardiac auscultation. He also studied and published descriptions of micronodular cirrhosis of the liver, later known as Laennec cirrhosis. He described the characteristics of tuberculosis long before its causative agent was detected.
Medical achievements in pediatrics.
Pediatrics became a distinguished medical specialty in the XIX century when the first children hospital was open in Paris in 1802. Soon, the Children’s Hospital became the European training center for pediatricians, through which French medicine replenished with new names:
– Pierre Bretonneau who studied diphtheria in children
– Charles-Michel Billard who published Atlas of pathological anatomy in regards to the history of childhood diseases
– Armand Trousseau who conducted clinical trials that led him to establish the tracheostomy technique (the surgery for tracheal opening) in young patients.
In 1844 the first nursery for toddlers was opened in France and later in 1892 the Scientific Society of pediatricians was established.
Philippe Pinel made a lot of medical achievements in the field of social psychiatry. He is known as the man who changed the methods of treatment of mentally ill people to more humane ones.
During the French revolution, Pinel was appointed chief physician of the Paris Institutions of the neurological sciences, Bicêtre and Salpêtrière. He was the first doctor to reorganize the living conditions of patients and to free them from chains. He also studied mental illnesses, classified them and developed the treatment methods. For the first time in the history, mentally ill people were given the human and civil rights, and the mental institution was turned into a hospital.
Among the founders of the surgery, there was Dominique-Jean Larrey, the chief surgeon of Napoleon’s army. He became famous for creating a “flying ambulance” – a mobile medical facility that transported the wounded from the battlefield and provided them with first aid.
The development of surgical science owes much to Alexis Carrel, a pioneer of surgery. He was first to keep the tissues in vitro, as well as to saw blood vessels (vascular suturing techniques) and to experiment with organ transplantation which led to inventing the machine perfusion technique.
Nevertheless, surgery in Europe was considered just a craft until the end of the XVIII century. For the first time, surgeons were assimilated to doctors when in 1731 the first Surgical Academy was established in Paris. The Academy was headed by the most famous French surgeon of the time – Jean-Louis Petit. He wrote numerous scientific papers on his research of bones and joints, and more specifically – on surgery of wounds and amputations. Another important contribution of the scientist was the development of a screw type tourniquet used to stop bleeding.
Thierry de Martel in his turn developed an innovative instrument for trepanation. He, together with Clovis Vincent, who studied brain swelling, tumors, and abscess, became the founders of the French neurosurgery.
Gynecology and obstetrics have long been inseparable. It was not until the XIX century that obstetrics in Western Europe became a separate specialty. In 1729, the first European maternity hospital was opened in the city of Strasbourg.
Louis Pasteur received the worldwide recognition for his discoveries. Thanks to his studies of fermentation and infectious diseases, the scientist discovered streptococci in 1870 and developed the pasteurization process later used for beer production. In 1879, Louis Pasteur in collaboration with Charles Chamberland and Émile Roux offered vaccination as an infectious diseases prevention method. Also, the scientist created a rabies vaccine that made him famous. In 1888, Louis Pasteur was appointed the director of the Institute that was later named in his honor. Till this day, the Institute plays a major role in biological research, its employees are engaged in the development of vaccines and serums.
French medicine is also recognized thanks to the research of Ernest Fourneau (director of Pasteur Institute laboratory) who became the founder of a new direction – chemotherapy. Fourneau was first to apply derivatives of arsenic in the treatment of syphilis, trypanosomiasis, and yaws. He also made numerous discoveries in fever treatment.