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Ambrose Pare

Ambrose Pare




Ambrose PareSurgery is the oldest form of medical treatment. The stanching of blood, the binding up of wounds, the support of broken limbs with splints, were called for by the fights of savage tribes, and soon gave employment to a class of practitioners. The Egyptian monuments testify to a trained class using lancets and probes. The knowledge of medicine as well as surgery passed to Greece, and thence was gradually diffused over Western Europe. Hippocrates and Galen are still revered names in the healing art. In the Middle Ages medical science stood still; dissection of the human body was prohibited. All knowledge must be derived from the ancient writings. Finally, in the sixteenth century, the lethargy was broken. Two men of original genius appeared, Paracelsus and Pare. The former has unfortunately, from his mystical theories, come to be generally regarded as a charlatan, while the latter is duly honored as " The Father of Modern Surgery".


Ambrose Pare was born at Laval in France in 1517, and in his seventeenth year became apprentice to a barber-surgeon in Paris. He improved his opportunities, studied at the hospital, and when only nineteen accompanied the army of Francis I. to Italy as surgeon. Here, instead of treating gunshot wounds with hot oil, according to the practice of the time, he used simple dressings and bandages. Trusting much to the healing power of nature, he discarded other prevailing barbarous practices. Instead or searing limbs with a hot iron after amputation, he tied lip the blood~vessels to pre-vent hemorrhage. In I545 he published his first treatise, treating of military surgery. He attended the lectures of Sylvius, the anatomist, and became his prosector. He extended the practice of ligature to large arteries, and thus greatly enlarged the use of amputation. His innovations were opposed by the regular faculty, and he was obliged to find support for his practice in the writings of Galen. He was, however, strongly supported by successive French kings, who made him their surgeon, and he had the thanks of the common soldiers. Discarding the pedantry of his profession, he endeavored to render every operation intelligible to his students. He made it a rule that in searching for a bullet the patient should be placed in the same posture as when the wound was received. Pare was an adherent of the Reformed faith; but his surgical skill and the favor of the court protected him from the persecution which attended his co-religionists. He died at Paris on the 22d of December, 1590.




In the year of our Lord 1536, Francis, the French king, for his acts in war and peace styled the Great, sent a puissant army beyond the Alps, under the government and leading of Annas of Montmorency, High Constable of France, both that he might relieve Turin with victuals, soldiers, and all things needful, as also to recover the cities of that province, taken by the Marquis of Gnast, general of the emperor's forces. I was in the king's army, the chirurgeon of Monsieur of Montejan, general of the foot. The Imperialists had taken the Straits of Suze, the castle of Villane, and all the other passages, so that the king's army was not able to drive them from their fortifications but by fight. In this conflict there were many wounded on both sides, with all sorts of weapons, but chiefly with bullets. To tell the truth, I was not very expert at that time in matters of chirurgery, neither was I used to dress wounds made by gunshot. But I had rend in John de Vigo that wounds made by gunshot were venenate or poisoned, by reason of the gunpowder; wherefore, for their cure, it was expedient to burn or cauterize them with oil of elders, scalding hot, with a little treacle mixed therewith.


But, since I gave no credit neither to the author nor remedy, because I knew that caustics could not be poured into wounds without excessive pain, I determined, before I would run a hazard, to see whether the chirurgeol1s who went with me in the army used ally other manner of dressing to these wounds. I observed and saw that all of them used that method of dressing which Vigo prescribes, and that they filled as full as they could the wounds made by gunshot with tents and pledgets dipped in this scalding oil at the first dressing, which encouraged me to do the like to those who came to be dressed by me.


It chanced, on a time, that by reason of the multitude that were hurt, I wanted this oil. Now, because there were some few left to be dressed, that I might seem to want nothing, and that I might not leave them undressed, I was forced to apply a digestive, made of the yolk of all egg, oil of roses, and turpentine. I could not sleep all that night , for I was troubled in mind, and the dressing of the preceding day troubled my thoughts, and I feared that the next day I should find them dead, or at the point of death, by the poison of their wounds, whom I had not dressed with scalding oil. Therefore I rose early in the morning and visited my patients; and, beyond expectation, I found such as I had dressed with a digestive only, free from vehemency of pain, to have had good rest, and that their wounds were not inflamed or tumefied but, on the contrary, the others that were burnt with the scalding oil were feverish, tormented with much pain, and the parts about their wounds were swollen. ,When I had many times tried this, on divers others, I thought this much, that neither I, nor any other, should ever cauterize any wounded with gunshot.- A. PARE: Translated by T . JOHNSON.



Ambrose Pare

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