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Chauliac, Guy De

Chauliac, Guy De

(b. Chauliac, Auvergne, France, ca. 1290; d. in or near Lyons, France, ca. 1367–1370),

medicine.

Guy’s family were of the peasant class, and he was aided in his studies by the lords of Mercoeur. He studied medicine first at Toulouse, then at Montpellier, and finally in Bologna. It was at Bologna that he perfected his knowledge of anatomy under the guidance of his master Nicolaus Bertrucius (Bertruccio), and his description of Bertrucius’ teaching methods has often been quoted. After leaving Bologna, Guy traveled to Paris before taking up residence in Lyons, where he was appointed canon of St. Just. He was later appointed a canon of Rheims and of Mende. At this period the popes resided in Avignon, and Guy became private physician to Clement VI (1342–1352), Innocent VI (1352–1362), and Urban V (1362–1370). His service to the popes was valued enough to earn him an appointment as a papal clerk (capellanus). While serving at Avignon, Guy made the acquaintance of Petrarch.

In his works Guy calls himself “cyrurgicus magister in medicine,” and he received his master’s degree in medicine (equivalent to the M.D. of Bologna) from Montpellier. He was one of the most influential surgeons of the fourteenth century; in fact, some nineteenth-century medical historians went so far as to rank him second only to Hippocrates in his influence on surgery. His chief work was the Inventorium sive collectorium in parse chirurgiciali medicine, which is usually referred to by its shorter title of Chirurgia or sometimes Chirurgia magna. Guy completed it in 1363 and dedicated it to his colleagues at Montpellier, Bologna, Paris, and Avignon, places where he had either practiced medicine or been a student. The seven parts or books that make up the Chirurgia passed through numerous editions and served at least until the seventeenth century as the standard work on the subject. The book or parts of it were translated early from Latin into Provençal, French, English, Italian, Dutch, and Hebrew. The prologue (“Capitulum singulare”) is an invaluable essay on general facts that Guy thought every surgeon should know about liberal arts, diet, surgical instruments, and the manner of conducting an operation. It also included a brief history of medicine and surgery in the form of notes on earlier physicians and surgeons and is the source of much information about Guy himself.

Guy regarded his book as a collection of the best medical ideas of his time, and he modestly stated that only a few things were original with him. E. Nicaise, the editor of the standard scholarly edition of the work, found that of some 3,300 quotations made by Guy, no fewer than 1,400 were from Arab writers and 1,100 from ancient authors. All told, some 100 different writers were cited or quoted. Galen led the list with 890 different citations, but frequent references were also made to Hippocrates, Aristotle, Al-Rāzī (Rhazes), Abul Kasim (Albucasis), Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), Ibn Rushd (Averroës), and many other Arab or classical writers. Chauliac also mentioned and assessed his contemporaries. He thought highly of William of Saliceto but little of Lanfranchi, and he ridiculed John of Gaddesden.

Chauliac urged surgeons to study anatomy and went so far as to say that surgeons who were ignorant of anatomy carved the human body in the same way that a blind man carved wood. In spite of his emphasis on anatomy, his section (Tractatus I) on the subject is the weakest part of his book; Guy shows little real understanding, even though he had undoubtedly assisted at dissections and carried out postmortem examinations. His work may be said to reflect more the teacher than the scientist and is more didactic than scientific; he probably accurately represents the state of medical knowledge at his time.

His work is a mine of information on all kinds of things. In his section on carbuncles, abscesses, tumors, and so forth, Guy also included buboes in the armpits. He then went on to describe the plagues of 1348 and 1360 at Avignon. He pointed out the prevalence of plague in Asia and Europe, indicated the differences between the pneumonic and bubonic types, and then revealed himself to be a man of his time by blaming the disease on the Jews—who, he said, wished to poison the world—or on certain conjunctions of the planets. He did, however, recognize the contagious nature of the plague and recommended purification of the air, as well as venesection and a good diet for the afflicted.

Much of the historical controversy on the place of Guy de Chauliac in the history of medicine has raged over the question of his views on infection. In many standard histories of medicine, Guy is accused of believing that pus (laudable pus) was a necessary part of the healing process. He is also accused of practicing meddlesome medicine by prescribing all sorts of salves, plasters, and so forth instead of depending upon the healing powers of nature. This labeling of Guy as a medical reactionary has in part been discounted by historians such as Jordan Haller, who are extremely critical of the standard treatments of Guy’s medical attitudes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Chauliac’s original MS has long been lost, and so has the archetype of the translation that was made into French. There are, however, several versions dating from the last quarter of the fifteenth century, as well as fragments, commentaries, and abridgments. The first published ed. was a French one, De la pratique de cyrurgie, collated with the Latin text by Nicolas Panis (Lyons, 1478). The first Latin ed. was published at Venice in 1498. An Italian trans. appeared at Venice in 1480; a Dutch trans. at Antwerp in 1500; and Catalan and Spanish trans. at Barcelona in 1492. Most of these went through several eds. An English ed. published in 1541 has not survived, although Robert Coplan’s trans. of the Chirurgia parva, dating from 1541–1542, is still extant. This Chirurgia parva, although often ascribed to Chauliac, is simply a rather poor compendium of some parts of the Chirurgia magna. Guy also wrote a treatise on astrology, Practica astrolabii (De astronomia), dedicated to Clement VI, and two other works that are now lost, De ruptura, a treatise on hernia, and De subtilianti diaeta, a treatise on cataract with a regimen for the patient. The best ed. is that of E. Nicaise, which is a trans. into modern French under the title La grande chirurgie (Paris, 1890). There is an English trans. of Tractatus III, On Wounds and Fractures, by W. A. Brennan (Chicago, 1923). See also The Middle English Translation of Guy de Chauliac’s Anatomy, Björn Wallner, ed. (Lund, Sweden, 1964).

II. Secondary Literature. George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, III (Baltimore, 1948), 1690–1694, summarizes much of the information about Guy and includes a discussion of various eds. of his work. Also valuable is E. Gurlt, Geschichte der Chirurgie, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1898), 11, 77–107. See also Leo Zimmerman and Ilza Veith, Great Ideas in the History of Surgery (Baltimore, 1961), pp. 149–157; and Vern L. Bullough, The Development of Medicine as a Profession (Basel, 1966), pp. 64–65, 93–95. A good summary article on whether Guy was or was not a medical reactionary is Jordan Haller, “Guy de Chauliac and His Chirurgia magna,” in Surgery, 55 (1964), 337–343.

Vern L. Bullough

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Guy de Chauliac

Guy de Chauliac

The French surgeon Guy de Chauliac (ca. 1295-1368), also known as Guido de Cauliaco, was the most famous surgical writer of the Middle Ages. His major work remained the principal didactic text on surgery until the 18th century.

Guy de Chauliac was born, very likely, at Chauliac, a village near the southern border of Auvergne. He was probably of peasant stock. The little that is known of his childhood and early training stems from brief, but frequent, autobiographical comments in his writings.

Because Guy cited the views of one of his Toulousian teachers, he is believed to have begun his medical and surgical studies in that city. At the University of Montpellier, whose medical faculty was renowned throughout the medieval world, he fulfilled the requirements for the degree of master of medicine. Subsequently, that title accompanied his name in most official documents, even though he had previously taken holy orders.

Sometime after 1326 Chauliac attended the anatomical lectures of Nicolò Bertuccio, the student of and successor to the important medieval anatomist Mondino da Luzzi at the University of Bologna. The next trace of Chauliac is in Paris, where during the late 13th century great surgeons such as Lanfranc and Henri de Mondeville had taught and practiced. The courses that their followers offered may have piqued but did not hold Chauliac's interest, for unlike many students, he did not linger in Paris but seems to have drifted slowly southward, perhaps performing surgical procedures to earn his way.

After having practiced surgery in or near Lyons for a decade or more, Chauliac moved to Avignon, where he accepted the post of private physician to Pope Clement VI. The date of his appointment to his office can be fixed between the Pope's election in 1342 and the onset of the bubonic plague epidemic at Avignon in 1348, which Chauliac described as a resident physician in that city. He also served Clement's successors at Avignon, Innocent VI and Urban V. In 1363 Chauliac, who had become papal first physician, composed his most important work, The Inventory of Medicine, or as it is known in Latin, Chirurgia magna.

This book, though not the earliest medieval surgical text, is remarkable in several respects. It begins with a historical account of the development of medicine and incorporates Chauliac's evaluation of the medical sources available in the mid-14th century. He reveals that he prized the Galenic texts recently rendered from Greek to Latin but scorned John of Gaddesden's medical encyclopedia, Rosa Anglica.

Of more interest today, however, are the personal experiences that Chauliac sprinkled throughout his text. These findings, together with his efforts to reconcile them with authoritative statements, contributed to the enormous success of his book; the Chirurgia magna was translated into many languages and passed through innumerable editions and abridgments. Five years after completing it, probably during the month of July, in 1368, Chauliac died.

Further Reading

There is a chapter on Chauliac in Leo M. Zimmerman and Ilza Veith, Great Ideas in the History of Surgery (1961). See also Fielding H. Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1913; 4th ed. 1929); Arturo Castiglioni, A History of Medicine (1927; 2d ed. 1947); and W. J. Bishop, The Early History of Surgery (1960). □

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Chauliac, Guy de

Guy de Chauliac (gē də shōlyäk´), c.1300–1368, French surgeon. At Avignon he was physician to Pope Clement VI and to two of his successors. His Chirurgia magna (1363) was used as a manual by physicians for three centuries.

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