Le Double, Anatole Félix

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Le Double, Anatole Félix

(b. Rocroi, France, 14 August 1848; d. Tours, France, 22 October 1913)


Le Double moved to Tours when still a child and never left that city; he died there, asphyxiated by carbon monoxide from a faulty stove. Le Double was a nonresident (1871) and a resident medical student (1873)in the Parisian hospitals and earned his medical degree at the University of Paris in 1873. He was a surgeon at the Hospice Général in Tours from 1879 to 1885, when he was appointed professor of anatomy. He then gave up the practice of medicine in order to devote his time to anatomical research. His career was crowned by his election as a corresponding, and then as a national associate member of the Académie de Médecine (1907).

Le Double was greatly interested in anomalies of the components of the human body including the muscles (1897), bones (1903), and hair. From his numerous statistics he attempted to derive general considerations valid for all observed cases. According to him, anomalies are not sports of nature occurring by mere chance. Defending the opposite thesis, he reaffirmed the conception of those anatomists who regarded anomalies as variations from a normal type and as subject to certain laws, including (1) the correlative and inverse balancing of the skull and face; (2) the correlation of cranial and brain volumes, especially the volume of the frontal lobes; (3) when several anomalies are observed in the same individual they are usually found in organs that have the same embryologic origin and that develop synchronously; (4)regardless of their type or location, variations in no way represent an anatomical indication of degeneracy, insanity, or criminality; (5) variations are indexes of human evolution: some are atavistic remnants of a previous evolutionary stage (reverse theromorphic variations), while others point to the form that such variations may take in adaptive anomalous new environment (progressive or adaptive anomalous variations). (6) an anatomically aberrant organ is more subject to pathological processes than any other.

Between 1880 and 1883 Le Double published in Dechambre’s Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales twenty-four articles on the muscles of the trunk. In Rabelais anatomiste et physiologiste (1899), which was often plagiarized, Le Double asserted that Rabelais was the first before Fabricius Hildanus to have described tracheal deformations brought on by goiter and to have give the symptomatology of venereal sarcocele and of mercurial stomatitis. Le Double also indicated that Rabelais knew of the scabies-causing mite and exterminated it. However, not all his claims for Rabelais have been substantiated.


I, Original Works. No complete bibliography of Le Double’s works has been compiled. A list of 24 works may be found in the Catalogue général of the Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, XCII, cols. 407-401; the Royal Society catalogue of scientific Papers, X, 547; XVI, 668-669; lists 35 papers written up to 1990. In addition Le Double was author of Fatale histoire (Tours, 1892), under the pseudonym F. du Pleix; Les velus (Pairs, 1912), written with F. Houssay; and Bossuet, anatomiste et physiologiste (Paris, 1913).

II. Secondary Literature. On Le Double and his work, see (listed chronologically) Gazette médecale du Centre,11 (1906), 129-133, with photograph; R. Mercier, “A. F. Le Double,” in Paris médical, 12 supp. (1912– 1913), 935; Semana médica (Buenos Aires), 20 , pt. 2 (1913), 1611-1614; Répertoire de médecine internationale, 3 (1913), 24; L. Dubreuil-Chambardel, “Le professeur Le Double,” in Gazette médecale du Centre,18 (1913), 257-258; Bulletin de l’Académie de médecine,70 (1913), 288-290; L. Dubreuil-Chambardel and Faix, “Le professeur Le Double,” in Aesculape,3 (1913), 271-272, with portrait; F. Baudoin, “Le professeur Le Double,” in Annales medico-chirurgicales du centre (1913), 505-508, with photograph; C. de Varigny, “L’oeuvre du Dr. Le Double,” ibid., 172-176; 185-187; J. Renault, “Un anatomiste philosophe; Félix Anatole Le Double,” in Gazette médicale du Centre, 18 (1914), 285-288; F. Houssay, “Anatole Félix Le Double et l’école tourangelle des variations anatomiques,” ibid., 19 (1914), 14-16; “Le Double,” in Biographisches Lexikon der hervoragenden Ärzte der letzen fünfzig Jahre, II (Berlin-Vienna, 1933), 879-880; and C. Mentré, Rabelais et l’anatomie (Nancy, 1970), diss.

Pierre Huard

Marie JosÉ Imbault-Huart

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