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 post anatomical, medical or surgical terms, their 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

Antoine Louis

French surgeon, anatomist, and physiologist. Following his medical studies and a long career as a physiologist, Antoine Louis was named Permanent Secretary of the Royal French Academy of Surgery. His other titles were those of Professor of the Royal Academy, Consultant Surgeon of the Armies of the King, member of the Royal Society of Sciences of Montpellier, Inspector of the Royal Military Hospitals, and Doctor in Law of the University of Paris. As a member of these academies Louis was instrumental in the design and construction of the guillotine. Initially called the "Louisette", this device was later named after another French physician in the same committee, Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

Antoine Louis' name is better know to history as the eponymic origin of the "sternal angle" also know as the "Angle of Louis" and synonymously (probably by misspelling or translation) the "angle of Lewis", and "angle of Ludwig". This anatomical landmark is extremely important as it serves as a superficial landmark for important anatomical occurrences (click here).

As a point of controversy, there are some that contest the history of this eponym adjudicating it to Pierre Charles Alexander Louis (1787-1872), another French physician dedicated to the study of tuberculosis.

1. Srickland, N; Strickland A Angle of Louis, More Than Meets the Eye. MedTalks:
2. Ramana, R. K., Sanagala, T. and Lichtenberg, R. (2006), A New Angle on the Angle of Louis. Congestive Heart Failure, 12: 197–199
. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA; 1970

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The term [scalpel] arises from the Latin word [scalpellum], meaning “a small knife”. Celsus (c.25BC - c.50BC) in De Re Medicina, uses the term [scalpellus] to refer to a surgeon’s knike.

The use of knives in Medicine is very old. 10,000 year old Mesolithic skulls have been found with craniotomies made with flint stone knives. The first one to describe surgical knives in recorded history was Hippocrates of Cos (460 BC - 370 BC).

Surgical knives were developed in a multitude of shape and forms, some of them veritable works of art. These scalpels were made by cutlery makers on demand by surgeons and had a fixed blade that had to be sharpened constantly, as surgery requires a very sharp blade.

The invention of the disposable razor by King Gillette in 1904 changed this. In 1910, Dr. John Benjamin Murphy (1857 – 1916) invented a handle that could hold a single-sided or a double-sided safety razor blade.

The design was improved by the invention of a disposable, sterilized surgical blade that could be easily installed on a reusable, sterilizable metal handle. Today sterile, disposable handle-blade combination scalpels of varying shapes and sizes are available, ensuring the surgeon the sharpest scalpel every time.

1. “The surgical knife” Ochsner J. Tex Heart Inst J. 2009; 36(5): 441–443
2. "History of the Surgical Blade" Shuja, A. Indep Rev Oct-Dec 2012;14(10-12)
3. "Masters of the Scalpel: The History of Surgery"" Riedman SR, R MacNally 1962  

Images courtesy of 

Different scalpel models (Wikipedia)
    Different scalpel models