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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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Paracelsus


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.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541). Swiss physician and alchemist , Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast Von Hohenheim was born in Einsiedeln in 1493 (one year after Columbus discovered America) in what is today is Switzerland. At an early age he became a migrant student, visiting several universities including T?bingen, Vienna, W?rttemberg, Heidelberg,  and Cologne. There is discussion as to whether he received or not a medical degree, although most authors today agree he might had. In 1510 he moved to Ferrara where he attained (apparently) his medical degree in 1516. During his constant travels he started to understand that folk medical treatment based on actual observation was better than what was published and followed blindly by the physicians of the time.

He started to call himself “Paracelsus” which means “alongside Celsus”, seen as one of the greatest physicians in history. Paracelsus continued his travels, visiting Egypt and Jerusalem. It is at this time that he started delving into the world of alchemy, returning to his home circa 1524.

Paracelsus was appointed “Town Physician” of the city of Basle but created controversy when he started lecturing in German (not Latin) and invited the general public as well as his students to his lectures. In his presentations he introduced the concepts of direct observation of the patient and empirical treatment, based his statements on experiments and reasoning opposing the “classics” Galen, and Avicenna.

Paracelsus. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Original image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
In 1527, during a demonstration he publicly burned the works of Avicenna to prove his point. This caused a backlash from the university and town authorities who expelled him in 1528. From this point on, Paracelsus’ life is constant wandering. He settles for a time and then travels again. In spite of his disdain for the works of the “medical greats”, he himself writes a large number of works, including medicine, surgery, theology, astronomy, magic, etc.  Many of these works are not published until after his death as he is considered to be contradicting Galen. In 1530 he writes the best description of syphilis and recommended its treatment with mercury.

In 1541 he was appointed to a post on the staff of Duke Ernest of Bavaria, but he died in mysterious circumstances on September 24 of that year at the White Horse Inn in Salzburg.

Paracelsus is a controversial image, bound in legend. For many, Paracelsus was bombastic, quarrelsome, opinionated and a drunkard. For others he is a figure of his time, clashing with the classics and giving us a new way to look at the world and at diseases. He taught that wounds must be allowed to drain and not, as was common, packed with unhealthy materials.  According to him, the human body primarily consists of salt, sulphur, and mercury, and it is the separation of these elements that causes illness. He introduced mineral baths and made opium, mercury, lead and other minerals part of his treatment, foreshadowing modern pharmacology with the use of chemical remedies, mercury for syphilis, laudanum and antimony. Paracelsus stated in 1538 that “Everything is a poison, the dose alone which makes a thing not a poison”.

I just discovered an interesting chain of events. For a time Paracelsus had a medical student that later decided not to continue his medical studies and instead dedicated himself to the new art of printing. His name was Johannes Oporinus and he was the printer that Andreas Vesalius selected to print his masterpiece, the "Fabrica".

Sources
1. “Paracelsus”  Abbott.A. Nature 366: (1993) 98
2. “Paradigm lost: a celebration of Paracelsus on his quincentenary” Feder. G. Lancet. 341: (1993) 1396-1397
3. “Does Paracelsus deserve a place in the medical pantheon?” Bynum, B. 367: (2006) 29; 1389–1390
4. “Paracelsus: founder of medical chemistry” Endeavour 15:4 (1991) 147
5. “Paracelsus: the medical Luther” Leary B. 73: 3(1984) 131-133
6. “Paracelus and the Philosopher’s Stone” TenHoor, W. Am J Surg (1935) 30:3 563-572