Ambroise Paré Biography (1510-1590)
Ambroise Paré, the uneducated son of a country artisan, became the greatest surgeon of the sixteenth century. Renowned as much for his compassion as his surgical skill, Paré guided his life with a humble credo of patient care: "I dressed him, God cured him." Paré was born in an era in which physicians considered surgery well beneath their dignity; they left allcutting to the lowly barber-surgeons. At an early age, he served an apprenticeship to a barber in the French provinces, travelling to Paris at age19 where he became a surgical student at the Hôtel Dieu hospital. Afterattaining the rank of master barber-surgeon in 1536, he joined the army as aregimental surgeon. He served intermittently in the army for the next 30 years, during which time he developed a flourishing practice and gained fame through his writings and his considerate, democratic treatment of soldiers of all ranks. Before his career ended, he had served as surgeon to four French kings.
It was during the siege of Turin in 1536-37 that Paré made his first great medical discovery. Gunshot wounds, a new medical condition, wereconsidered to be poisonous and were routinely treated by cauterization with boiling oil. When Paré ran out of oil during the siege, he turned instead to simple dressings and soothing ointment, and immediately noted the improved condition of his patients. Paré popularized this revolutionary treatment in his Method of Treating Wounds in 1545. Paré's secondcritical contribution to medicine was his promotion of ligature of blood vessels to prevent hemorrhage during amputations. Paré's classic Treatise on Surgery, written in 1564, disseminated knowledge of this life-saving technique. In this book, Paré also included large parts of Andreas Vesalius's authoritative work on anatomy, translated from the original Latin into the vernacular French. This dramatically opened the doors of anatomical knowledge to the barber-surgeons of Paré's time who, like Paré,were unable to read Latin and were scorned and left untrained by establishment physicians.
Paré was an innovator, willing to depart from established practices. He advocated massage and designed a number of artificial limbs as well as an artificial eye. He advanced obstetrics by reintroducing podalic version (turning a fetus in utero into a position possible for birth) and inducing premature labor in cases of uterine hemorrhage. As always, he spread knowledgeof these discoveries through his vernacular writings. Because of his dissemination of surgical knowledge among the barber-surgeons of his time and his efforts to elevate the status of surgery to a level of some prestige and professionalism, Paré is regarded as the "Father of Modern Surgery."