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Guillaume Dupuytren

Guillaume Dupuytren, photogravure
Guillaume Dupuytren, lithograph

Baron Guillaume Dupuytren (5 October 1777 – 8 February 1835) was a French anatomist and military surgeon. Although he gained much esteem for treating Napoleon Bonaparte's hemorrhoids, he is best known today for Dupuytren's contracture which is named after him and which he described in 1831.


  • Birth and education 1
  • Practice 2
  • In fiction 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Birth and education

Guillaume Dupuytren was born in the town of Pierre-Buffière in the present-day department of Haute-Vienne.

He studied medicine in Paris at the newly established École de Médecine and was appointed, by competition, prosector when only eighteen years of age. His early studies were directed chiefly to anatomical pathology. In 1803 he was appointed assistant surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu and in 1811 he became professor of operative surgery in succession to Raphael Bienvenu Sabatier. In 1816 he was appointed to the chair of clinical surgery and became head surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu. He held this post until his death.


He visited the Hôtel-Dieu morning and evening, performing at each time several operations, lectured to vast throngs of students, gave advice to his outpatients, and fulfilled the duties consequent upon one of the largest practices of modern times. By his indefatigable activity he amassed a fortune, the bulk of which he bequeathed to his daughter, with the deduction of considerable sums for the endowment of the anatomical chair in the École de Médecine, and the establishment of a benevolent institution for distressed physicians. The most important of Dupuytren's writings is his Treatise on Artificial Anus, in which he applied the principles laid down by John Hunter. In his operations he was remarkable for his skill and dexterity, and for his great readiness of resource.

Dupuytren was one of the first surgeons to successfully drain a brain abscess using trepanation, in which a hole is cut in the skull, and he also used the method to treat seizures.[1] He claimed credit for originally describing melanoma and claimed Laennec stole the idea from his lectures. [2]

He died in Paris, and there with his bequest established the Musée Dupuytren.

He was a brilliant teacher, an astute diagnostician and a gifted surgeon. On the other hand he was extremely critical of students and colleagues who failed to live up to his exacting professional standards. This, along with his desire to be the best of the best won him numerous critics, not all of them objective. He has been described by such colourful epithets as 'The Brigand of Hôtel-Dieu by Lisfranc and 'First among surgeons, least among men' by Percy.

In fiction

The surgeon Desplein, in Balzac's short story "The Atheist's Mass," is based on Dupuytren.

Dupuytren's success at draining a cerebral abscess is referred to in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary: "not Dupuytren, about to open up an abscess through a thick encephalic layer" (Part Two, Chapter 11).

Dupuytren is mentioned as a youthful acquaintance of Stephen Maturin in The Surgeon's Mate by Patrick O'Brian. Walking past his former student lodgings, Maturin comments, "Dupruyten lived just below... we used to share our corpses."

Reference is made in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables: “Dupuytren and Recamier entered into a quarrel in the amphitheatre of the School of Medicine, and threatened each other with their fists on the subject of the divinity of Jesus Christ.”[3]


  1. ^ Jensen RL, Stone JL (1997). "Benjamin Winslow Dudley and Early American trephination for posttraumatic epilepsy". Neurosurgery 41 (1): 263–268.  
  2. ^ Denkler K, Johnson J. (1999). "A lost piece of melanoma history". Plast Reconstr Surg 104 (7): 2149–53.  
  3. ^ Excerpt From: Hugo, Victor. “Les Misérables.” Bookbyte Digital. iBooks.


  • Catholic Encyclopedia article
  • Baron Guillaume Dupuytren. WhoNamedIt.
  • Baron Guillaume Dupuytren History of Surgeons –
  • On the injuries and diseases of bones by Guillaume Dupuytren (1847)
  • Lesions of the Vascular System, Diseases of the Rectum, and other surgical complaints by Guillaume Dupuytren (1854)

External links

  • Gilgenkrantz, Simone (2006). "[The Baron Guillaume Dupuytren]". Med Sci (Paris) 22 (8–9): 771–2.  
  • Vayre, Pierre (2004). "[Guillaume Dupuytren 1777–1835]".  
  • Gudmundsson, Kristján G; Jónsson Thorbjörn; Arngrímsson Reynir (July 2003). "Guillaume Dupuytren and finger contractures".  
  • Jay, V (2000). "Baron Guillaume Dupuytren". Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 124 (7): 955–6.  
  • Wylock, P (December 1997). "In the footsteps of Guillaume Dupuytren". Acta Chir. Belg. 97 (6): 277–80.  
  • Wylock, P (1990). "[Guillaume Dupuytren—1777–1835]". Acta Chir. Belg. 90 (1): 1–4.  
  • Wylock, P (1989). "The life and time of Guillaume Dupuytren". Canadian journal of surgery 32 (6): 473–7.  
  • Elliot, D (1988). "The early history of contracture of the palmar fascia. Part 2: The revolution in Paris: Guillaume Dupuytren: Dupuytren's disease". Journal of hand surgery (Edinburgh, Scotland) 13 (4): 371–8.  
  • Towpik, E (1986). "[Guillaume Dupuytren—an outline of a biography (on the 150th anniversary of his death)]". Wiad. Lek. 39 (24): 1718–24.  
  • Epifanov, N S (1986). "[Guillaume Dupuytren (on the 150th anniversary of his death)]". Khirurgiia (4): 151–2.  
  • Tubiana, R (1986). "[Guillaume Dupuytren]". Annales de chirurgie de la main : organe officiel des sociétés de chirurgie de la main 5 (2): 169.  
  • Dufour, A (1984). "[Guillaume Dupuytren (1777–1835), Chief Surgeon of the Hôtel-Dieu]". Bull. Acad. Natl. Med. 168 (9): 1039–50.  
  • Hauben, D J (1984). "[Our surgical heritage. Guillaume Dupuytren (1777–1835)]". Zentralblatt für Chirurgie 109 (11): 765–6.  
  • Dupuytren, Guillaume (September 1982). "The classic. On osteo-sarcoma, spina-ventosa, and tubercles in bone: Guillaume Dupuytren". Clin. Orthop. Relat. Res. 450 (169): 4–14.  
  • Bloch, H (February 1981). "Guillaume Dupuytren, M.D. (1777–1835). Surgeon of Hôtel Dieu and his American students". New York state journal of medicine 81 (2): 259–60.  
  • Kós, R (January 1979). "[Guillaume Dupuytren (1778–1835)]". Orvosi hetilap 120 (4): 230–2.  
  • Mann, R J (1977). "Of Guillaume Dupuytren, who feared nothing but mediocrity".  
  • Lindskog, G E (1977). "Guillaume Dupuytren, 1777 to 1835". Surgery, gynecology & obstetrics 145 (5): 746–54.  
  • Lyons, J B (October 1975). "Pioneers in medicine: Baron Guillaume Dupuytren; 1777–1835". Nursing mirror and midwives journal 141 (16): 62.  
  • Goldwyn, R M (1969). "Guillaume Dupuytren: his character and contributions". Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 45 (8): 750–60.  
  • Goldwyn, R M (1968). "Guillaume Dupuytren".  
  • Poynter, F N (April 1968). "Doctors in The Human Comedy (Guillaume Dupuytren, Jean Baptiste Bouillaud, François Joseph Victor Broussais, François Magendie)".  
  • Théodoridès, J (1966). "[The amicable relations of A. von Humboldt with Guillaume Dupuytren]".  
  • "Guillaume Dupuytren (1777–1835)--The Brigand Of H Otel Dieu".  
  • PELTIER, L F (May 1958). "Guillaume Dupuytren and Dupuytren's fracture". Surgery 43 (5): 868–74.  


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