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Ambroise Paré

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French surgeon, born at Bourg-Hersent, near Laval, department of Maine, 1517; died 20 December, 1590. He was apprenticed to a barber at an early age, became barber-surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, surgeon in the army of Francis I (1536-38), re-enlisted on the reopening of hostilities (1542-44), and in 1545 began the study of anatomy at Paris, under François-Jacques Dubois (Sylvius). He was appointed field-surgeon by Marshal Rohan, and (1552) became surgeon to King Henry II, in 1554 member of the Collège de St-Cosme, exempt from taxation, and in 1563, after the siege of Rouen, first surgeon and chamberlain to King Charles IX. A Catholic throughout his life, Tal has given documentary refutation to the legend that Paré was a Huguenot and was spared during the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day (1572) by direct command of the king. On account of his humanitarian activity he was held in special regard among soldiers. His motto, as inscribed above his chair in the Collège de St-Cosme, read: "Je g pansay et Dieu le guarist" ("I treated him, but God healed him"). A monument was erected to him at Laval.

Paré's pioneer work was chiefly in the department of military surgery. His importance in the development of modern surgery may be compared with that of his contemporary, Andreas Vesalius, in the development of modern anatomy. The chief services rendered by Paré are a reform in the treatment of gunshot wounds, and the revival of the practice of ligating arteries after amputation. From the time of Giovanni Vigo (c. 1460-1520), surgeon-in-ordinary to Pope Julius II, gunshot wounds were classified as contused, burned, and poisoned, and the last-named, on the supposition that all gunshot wounds were poisoned by powder, were cauterized with red-hot iron or hot oil. On one occasion, after a battle, Paré, not having sufficient oil, applied ointment and bandaged the wounds, and observed that the healing process proceeded more favourably under this treatment. His observations, published in 1545, gave the impetus to a rational reform of the whole system of dealing with wounds, and did away with the theory of poisoned gunshot wounds, despite the fact that the Italians, Alfonso Ferri (1552) and Giovanni Francesco Rota (1555), obstinately defended the old view. Vascular ligation, which had been practised by the Alexandrians, was revived by Paré at amputations in the form of ligating the artery, though thereby the nerves were bruised. This discovery, which he published in 1552, he speaks of as an inspiration which came to him through Divine grace. In cases of strangulated hernia of the groin he performed the operation known as herniotomy, while heretofore physicians feared to operate in such cases, leaving the patients to die miserably. In obstetrics we owe to him the revival of foot-presentation, but he was always averse to the Cæsarean operation (sectio cæsarea). In all departments of surgery we find Paré an independent observer and thinker; but his advanced notions encountered much opposition on the part of the Paris faculty of medicine. Thus at the time of his enrolment in the faculty of the Collège de St-Cosme, in 1554, the faculty made his ignorance of Latin a ground of objection against him. Nor could it ever forgive him for rendering ludicrous supposed panaceas, the so-called arcana (mumia, ceratum humanum, unicornu).


The best edition of Paré's works, which also contains biographical notices, is that of MALGAIGNE, Oeuvres d'Ambroise Paré (3 vols., Paris, 1840-41); they were also edited by LE PAULMIER, Ambroise Paré d'après de nouveaux documents (Paris, 1855). Earlier editions are: Oeuvres de M. Ambr. Paré (Paris, 1575, eleven editions to 1685; Latin, Paris, 1582; tr., London, 1578; Dutch, 1604; German, 1601). The more important editions of the single treatises are: Cinq livres de chirurgie (Paris, 1572), his masterpiece; La méthode de traicter les playes faictes par hacquebutes et aultres bastons à feu: et de celles qui sont faictes par fleches, flecdardz et semblables: aussi des combustions specialement faictes par la pouldre à canon (Paris, 1545, 1552; tr. 1617); La méthode curative des playes et fractures de la teste humaine (Paris, 1561); Briefve collection de l'administration anatomique (Paris, 1550, 1561), at one time a very highly esteemed anatomical work; Discours do la mumie, des venins, de la licorne et de la peste (Paris, 1532); Réplique à la response faicte contre son discours do la licorne (Paris, 1584). See TEELING in The Month (March, 1903).

About this page

APA citation. Senfelder, L. (1911). Ambroise Paré. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Senfelder, Leopold. "Ambroise Paré." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas J. Bress.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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