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François Mauriceau

Born  1637
Died  1709

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French obstetrician, born 1637, Paris; died October 17, 1709.

Biography of François Mauriceau

François Mauriceau received his first training in obstetrics at the Hôtel-Dieu in his native city of Paris. After qualifying he soon built a large practice in which he gathered experiences that were later laid down in his works. He was an ordinary surgeon and not a doctor of medicine, but his close observations and detailed studies of the foetus, the pregnant uterus, the female pelvis, and the techniques of delivery made him a leading obstetrician of his time.

Mauriceau was recognised by the profession and received many honours. He held the honour of being Prévot - head of the faculty - of the famous Collegium of the Paris surgeons at the Saint-Côme.

Mauriceau fought the English family of obstetricians, the Chamberlens, for keeping their forceps a secret, accusing them of common swindling. He was able to convince many of his colleagues to join his view, and so the Chamberlen family and its forceps soon fell into oblivion.

His large work on obstetrics, Les maladies des femmes grosses . . . based upon the experiences and conclusions of the author, appeared in 1668. This work appeared in numerous editions and was translated into many languages.

In 1695 he published a second work, a collection of clinical stories, which is still of considerable value. A handgrip for turning the foetus during delivery still bears his name.

He was the first to describe tubal pregnancy, brow presentation, management of placenta praevia and the rupturing of the membranes to induce labour. He also introduced the terms fouchette, fossa navicularis and pudendal.

A few years before his death he gave up his lucrative practice and retired from public life to live in the countryside.

It was to Mauriceau that Hugh Chamberlen attempted to sell the secret of his forceps.

In a portrait from 1668, Mauriceau is portrayed as a scholarly-looking man.


  • Traité des maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées.
    Paris, chez l'auteur, 1668.
    This book established obstetrics as a science.
    2nd and following editions entitled:
  • Traité des maladies des femmes grosses, et de celles qui sont nouvellement accouchées. Paris 1668.
    Translated into English by Hugh Chamberlen (ca. 1630-1720) in London, 1673, 1681, 1683, 1716, 1717). German translations in Basel, 1680; Nürnburg, 1681; Strassburg, 1732). Italian, Genoa, 1727; Dutch, P. Clamper, Amsterdam, 1759; Latin, Paris, 1861.
  • Observations sur la grossesse et l’accouchement des femmes et sur leur maladies, et celles des enfans nouveau-nés.
    Paris, 1695, 1715, 1721, 1728, 1738.
    German translation by Martin Schurig (1656-1733), Dresden, 1709.
  • Dernières observations sur les maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées. Paris, 1708, 1715, 1728.
  • Aphorismes touchant la grossesse, l’accouchement, les maladies et les autres indispositions des femmes.
    Paris, 1694. Amsterdam 1700 (with Dutch and French texts). German Translation by J. Timm, Leipzig, 1733.
  • Justine [Dittrichin] Siegmundin (1650-1705):
    Die Chur-Brandenburgische Hoff-Wehe-Mutter.
    Cölln an der Spree, U. Liebperten, 1690.
    With Mauriceau, Justine Siegmundin was responsible for introducing the practice of puncturing the amniotic sac to arrest haemorrhage in placenta praevia. She was midwife to the Court of the Elector of Brandenburg, and the most celebrated of the German midwives of the 17th century.

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