Baron Guillaume Dupuytren
Guillaume Dupuytren was born on 5 (or 6?) Oct 1777 in Pierre-Buffière (near Limoges,
France). Being very
talented yet poor his study at Collège de la Marche was funded by charity. At the age of 18 he already
became prosecutor in anatomy in Paris, later he was
promoted head surgeon to the Hôtel-Dieu. He also was
surgeon of Louis XVIII and Charles X and accumulated considerable
wealth. At his time he was a well recognized surgeon in Europe who published
extensively, his probably most important publication being his treatise on
artificial anus. He died on 8 Feb 1835 in Paris.
Today Dupuytren is most known
through Dupuytren’s disease or contracture.
The disease was probably first described by Felix Platter of Basel, Switzerland, in 1614 (Felix
Platter, Observationum in hominis affectibus. Basileae, L. König, 1614, Liber I, p 140.). Dupuytren then demonstrated
a technique how to perform surgery on this disease. His technique included cuts
into the fascia, allowing straightening the fingers with the characteristic
snap (still occurring in needle aponeurotomy and other techniques). His first
published description was in Guillaume Dupuytren, De la rétraction des doigts par suite d’une affection de l’aponévrose palmaire, opération chirurgicale qui convient dans ce cas, Journal universel et hebdomadaire de médecine et de chirurgie pratiques et des institutions médicales, 2nd series; 5,
(Paris 1831) p 352 - 365. Reprinted, in Medical Classics 4 (1939)
p 127 - 150. Shortly afterwards appeared the more frequently cited English
article Guillaume Dupuytren, Permanent
retraction of the fingers, produced by affection of the palmar
fascia., Lancet, vol. 2 (London 1833 -1834) p 222-225.
A description of
his original technique to operate Dupuytren’s disease can
e.g. be found in Adrian Flatt, The Vikings and Baron Dupuytren’s Disease, Baylor University Medical Center
Proceedings 14/4 (2001) p 378 – 384. Link: http://www.bhcs.com/Proceedings/14_4/14_4_flatt.pdf The article
includes a picture of Dupuytren himself and
examples of Dupuytren’s disease and related
diseases, like knuckle pads or Ledderhose’s disease.
While Guillaume Dupuytren was an unusually
talented surgeon, his personality was at least difficult. In his article Guillaume Dupuytren 1777-1835 (Hist Sci Med. 38/1 (2004)
p 27 – 36) Pierre Vayre describes that “he never used any compromise either
diplomatic solution … and he died in the same way as a real wolf” but also
mentions his great sensibility. Another article describes Guillaume Dupuytren ‘as the greatest
French surgeon of the 19th century, his name being associated with 12 different
conditions or operations. He studied fracture healing and carried out extensive
experiments on cadavers to elucidate the mechanism of fractures about the
ankle. Dupuytren was a master of polemics and
was known as "the greatest of surgeons and the meanest of men"’ (http://radiographics.rsnajnls.org/cgi/content/full/20/3/819).
An good overview of Dupuytren’s life is also found in http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/1104.html
Guillaume Dupuytren also appears
occasionally in “Master and Commander” novels by Patrick O’Brian, e.g. in The Mauritius Command (Norton, New York, 1991) p 28 - 29 where Dupuytren is described as
“a physiognomist and follower of Lavater”,
developing nasty theories about “the English look”, and being “a French colleague”
of the novel’s surgeon Steven Maturin. Also in The Surgeon’s Mate (Norton, New York,
1992) on p 138 (“Dupuytren lived just below
… we used to share our corpses”) and p 333.
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