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Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter
Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859)

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter

(1811-1859)

Thomas Dent Mutter was born on March 9, 1811, in Richmond, VA. His mother died in 1813, and his father died of tuberculosis in 1817. Thomas was orphaned when he was barely 8 years old. His father left him a somewhat meager inheritance and in his early life had to do with less that others with his objectives in life. He was well educated under the tutelage of Robert Carter, his guardian, and in 1824 he started his studies at the Hampden Sidney College of Virginia. He continued with a medical apprenticeship with a Dr. Simms in VA. He was well respected and even at his early age he would do home visits for his medical benefactor with great results. He started medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his MD in 1831. The new young doctor, Thomas Dent Mutter, MD was only 20 years of age.

At the time, Europe was the place to go to if you wanted advanced medical studies. Dr. Mutter had no money, so he applied as a ship surgeon to be able to cross the Atlantic. Once in Europe, he spent time in Paris, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Guillaume Dupuytren. He later studied for a short time in England where he met Dr. Robert Liston. Following Dupuytren's teachings, Mutter was fascinated by plastic surgery.

A chance encounter with what was to become his first well-known acquisition of a medical curiosity, Mutter started thinking on how to help those people that were known at that time as “monsters”, patients who the general public did not see, because they did not appear in public. The curiosity in question was a wax reproduction of the face of a French woman who had a “horn” arising from her forehead. This piece is on exhibit at the Mütter Museum.

Back in the United States in 1832, Thomas Dent Mutter changed his last name to give it a more “European” sound and added an “umlaut”, so now he was Thomas D. Mütter, MD. It may also be that he wanted to pay homage to his Scottish-German heritage, who knows? He opened his medical office in Philadelphia and although it took time, eventually he had a thriving practice. One of his specialties was the work on “deformities” so common at the time because of facial scars born out of the use of open fires in houses, and deformities caused by burns and loss of tissue due to chemicals used in local industry. Dr. Mütter is the pioneer of what we call today “Reconstructive Surgery”.

In 1835 he was asked to join the Medical Institute of Philadelphia as an assistant professor of Surgery. He was an instant success. Dr. Mütter was adored by his students because, he would question the students and guide them to discovery instead of just lecturing and leaving. In his Discourse eulogy of Dr. Mütter by Joseph Pancoast he writes:” The power of attracting students near him by his mingled gentleness, energy, and enthusiasm; of fixing their attention by the lucid and methodical arrangements of his Subject, by his clear demonstrations, and sprightly oral elucidations, came so readily to him, and was so early displayed) as to seem almost intuitive.” In 1841 Dr Mütter was appointed Professor of Surgery at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Mütter had always had poor health, even in childhood, and his dedication to his passion, long hours, took its toll on his body. In 1956 he set sail for Europe and resigned his teaching duties. He was named Emeritus Professor of Surgery. Unfortunately, the trip did not help, and he returned to the US in early 1958. Fearful of another winter in cold Philadelphia, he moved to Charleston, SC, where he died on March 19, 1859.

Dr. Mütter’s story does not end here. He was an avid collector and throughout his short life he had pulled together an impressive collection of medical oddities, samples, and curiosities. Knowing that his life was at an end, he negotiated with the Philadelphia College of Physicians to have them host his collection in perpetuity as well as the creation of a trust fund that would ensure that the public and medical students would have access to this incredible collection. Through the years this collection has increased and is known today as the Mütter Museum of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. I strongly urge our readers to visit this incredible museum. For more information, click here.

Personal notes: In the late 90’s, I attended a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists.  During the meeting I met Gretchen Worden, who at the time was the Curator of the Mütter museum. Gretchen was inspirational, fun, and a great conversationalist! I had the opportunity to visit Gretchen at the Mütter museum and had the luck to be treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. What an experience! I was saddened to hear that Gretchen Worden passed on August 2, 2004. Still, in my recent visit to the Mütter Museum, I was glad to see a new section at the museum that remembers Gretchen. Her biography can be read here.

I would like to thank Dr. Leslie Wolf for lending me the book by O’Keefe that lead to me writing this article. Dr. Miranda

Sources:
1. “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” O’Keefe, C. 2015 Penguin Random House, LLC
2. “A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Professor T.D. Mütter” Pancoast, J. 1859 J Wilson Publisher
3. “Thomas Dent Mütter: the humble narrative of a surgeon, teacher, and curious collector” Baker, J, et al. The American Surgeon, Atlanta 77:iss5 662-14
4. “Thomas Dent Mutter, MD: early reparative surgeon” Harris, ES; Morgan, RF. Ann Plast Surg 1994 33(3):333-8
5. “5 Things I Learned from Thomas Dent Mütter” O’Keefe C.


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Don Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós


This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

UPDATED: Don Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós (1734-1816). Spanish anatomist and surgeon. His complete name was Don Manuel Luis Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós. He was born to a farmer’s family in 1734 in Cambrils (Tarragona), in what today is Catalu?a. Gimbernat studied Latin and Philosophy at the University of Cervera, continuing his studies at the School of Surgery in C?diz, where he graduated in 1762.

Gimbernat joined the Spanish Navy, but because of this capabilities, in 1765 he was offered the position of Anatomy Professor at the Royal School of Surgery in Barcelona. In 1768 he made an anatomical discovery that would render him immortal: he demonstrated the presence of the lacunar ligament. Furthermore he applied his knowledge of this ligament to improve on the surgical technique to reduce a strangulated femoral hernia. Gimbernat also discovered the lymph node found in the femoral ring (later to be known as Cloquet’s or Rosenmueller’s node)

In 1774 Gimbernat traveled through Europe to learn the latest surgical techniques. This trip was sponsored by King Carlos III. During his stay in London Gimbernat studied with John Hunter (1728 – 1793). In an attitude not common for a student at the time, at the end of one of Hunter's anatomical lectures on hernia, Gimbernat asked to go to the cadaver and demostrate his findings. With approval of the teacher, he demonstrated for Hunter the lacunar ligament as well as his strangulated femoral hernia technique. Hunter watched the demonstration and at the end of it he just said "You are correct, sir".

Don Antonio de Gimbernat i Arb?s

Hunter was so impressed that from that day on he referred to the lacunar ligament as “Gimbernat’s ligament" and adopted his surgical technique. Gimbernat also showed Hunter his studies and technique to repair diaphragmatic hernias.

Manuel Gimbernat participated in the creation of the Spanish Royal School of Surgery, became a professor of surgery and  orthopedics, and in 1789 he was named First Royal Surgeon and president of all the surgical schools in Spain.

In 1793, Gimbernat published his “ Nuevo M?todo de Operar en la Hernia Crural” dedicated to King Charles IV,  which was translated as “A New Method of Operating for the Femoral Hernia”, into English in 1795.

In 1803 the Spanish king Carlos IV commissioned Don Francisco Javier de Balmis i Berenguer (1753 – 1819), a Spanish phyisician, to find a solution to the smallpox problem in the Spanish colonies in South America. While planning what was later to be known as the “Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition” Balmis received critical contributions from Don Manuel Gimbernat.

All of his titles and positions were removed by King Fernando VII because Gimbernat was a supporter of Napoleon during his invasion of Spain in 1808.  Sick, poor, blind, and with ailing mental faculties, Don Manuel Gimbernat died in Madrid on November 17, 1816.

Gimbernat was also a pioneer in ophthalmology, vascular surgery and urology. As for his incredible anatomical dissection capabilities, Gimbernat often said “mi autor m?s favorito es el cadaver humano" (my favorite author is the human body”

Personal note: My thanks to Dr. Bueno-López for his correction of the name of Gimbernat: "Although don Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós was born in a town in Catalonia, Spain, he never wrote his name nor his contemporaries did, with the particle 'i' between his two family names (in the manner of the Catalan language) but with particle 'y' in the way of the Spanish language". There are many articles where Gimbernat's last name is written "Gimbernat i Arbos" (see link #3 on the Source section) which according to Dr. Bueno-L?pez is incorrect. To read the article co-authored by Dr. Bueno-López on Gimbernat (#6 in our Sources section) click here.

Sources:
1. “Manuel Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbós. 1734-1816” Trauma (2012) 23: (1)
2. ” Gimbernat y Arbós, Antonio de (1734-1816) Loukas M et al World J Surg 2007; 31: 855-7
3. “Ep?nimos m?dicos: Ligamento de Gimbernat” Febrer JLF 1999
(Link) 
4. “Antonio de Gimbernat (1734- 1816). Anatomist and surgeon” Puig-LaCalle J, Mart?-Pujol R. Arch Surg 1995; 130: 1017- 20
5. “Antonio de Gimbernat, 1734-1816” Matheson NM. Proc R Soc Med 1949; 42: 407-10.
6. "Antonio Gimbernat y Arbós: An Anatomist-surgeon of the Enlightenment (In the 220th Anniversary of his ‘‘A New Method of Operating the Crural Hernia’" Arraez-Aybar LA, Bueno-Lopez JL. Clin Anat (2013) 26:800–809