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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

Antoine Louis
(1723–1792)

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.

Sources:
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
3
. "The origin of Medical Terms" Skinner, HA; 1970


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Empedocles of Agrigentum


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.
Empedocles of Agrigentum (ca. 495–430 BC). Greek philosopher, poet, physician, physiologist, politician, Empedocles was born in the city of Agrigentum, a Greek colony in Sicily.

Empedocles presented himself as an immortal god. Versed in magic and incantations, he was seen as a healer by people that followed him.

A philosopher, Empedocles developed the theory that nature consists of the combination of four “elements”— earth, water, air, and fire —with each of these elements being a combination of two qualities:  water is wet and cold, air is dry and cold, fire is dry and hot, and earth is wet and hot. Empedocles went further to explain that the combination of these elements is based on the balance of love and hate. The balance of the elements represented balance in life.

Further development of this theory by observation of the human body, led to the “Humor theory” or “bodily fluids” theory based on four fluids whose imbalance led to disease. The four humors were “blood” or sanguineous, which belongs to the air element, “phlegm”, which belongs to water, “yellow bile”, which corresponds to fire, and “black bile” or “melancholy” which corresponds to earth. This theory dominated human physiology and medicine until the 17th century.

Empedocles of Agrigentum
Because the humor theory also explained moods and temperaments, Empedocles’ influence is still seen in our language as we refer to people and personalities as “phlegmatic”, “sanguine”, “bilious”, and “melancholy”.

Empedocles’ death is the stuff of legend. To maintain his image as a god, he threw himself into the Etna volcano to disappear. This was foiled as it is said that the volcano spew one of his golden sandals. Others said that he made a “divinity” party and after dinner when everyone was asleep he disappeared, making everyone believe he had risen to heaven. Fact is, we do not know.

Sources
1. “Mythical Conceptions of the Problem of the Unity of Culture” Tagliacozzo, G. Am Behav Scient Apr 1963; 6-8
2. “The Nature and Formation of Teeth According to Spanish Authors from the 16th to the 18th Centuries” Romero-Maroto, M. J Dent Res (2008) 87(2):103-106
3. “The evolution of Modern Medicine” Osler, W. 2nd Ed. Yale University Press 1922
4. “Empedocles” N Brit Rev Vol LXV (1866) 420-440