Henri de Mondeville (1260-1320): Medieval French Anatomist and Surgeon
By Sanjib K. Ghosh
European Journal of Anatomy, Vol. 19:3 (2015)
Abstract: Henri de Mondeville (1260-1320) was a French anatomist and surgeon. He was surgeon to King Philip the Fair of France and his successor Louis X. He belonged to an elite class of surgeons, the médecins-chirugiens, who were graduates of a medical school as well as holders of a Master’s Degree, and were held in high esteem in the practice of surgery. He served as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the University of Montpellier between 1301 and 1304.
He was a visionary anatomist, who taught the subject from a series of handmade, full-length illustrations, which, though rudimentary in terms of precise anatomical knowledge, marked a significant transformation in anatomical studies during those days, as human cadaveric dissection was prohibited and anatomists had to rely solely on textual descriptions prevalent from the ancient period. Mondeville conducted the first unauthorized human dissection at the University of Montpellier in 1315, and his efforts were pivotal towards legalization of human dissection in France from 1340.
He was the first Frenchman to author a surgical text, La Chirurgie, which he could not complete due to his untimely death. Mondeville introduced the concept of aseptic management of wounds without inducing pus formation, and successfully applied the same on injured soldiers. However neither his contemporaries nor his immediate successors recognized the value of his work, which gradually went into oblivion, only to be rediscovered centuries later with the revival of antiseptic surgery in modern times.