Biography of Jean-Baptiste Bouillaud
Jean-Baptiste Bouillaud, one of the last of the great bloodletters, was a shrewd observer and responsible for a number of discoveries, among them the localisation of the speech centre in the middle of the left cerebral hemisphere, an observation first reported in 1825 in his early treatise on brain diseases.
Bouillaud spent his student time under the guidance of his uncle Jean Bouillaud - chirurgien-major in the army. Following the completion of his studies Bouillaud received his doctorate in Paris in 1823 and subsequently distinguished himself by publishing a treatise on diseases of the heart, with René-Joseph-Hyacinthe Bertin (1757-1828). In 1831 he was appointed to the chair of clinical medicine at the Charité through concours, and soon enjoyed the reputation of an outstanding clinician. However, an enthusiastic follower of François Joseph Victor Broussais (1772-1838), his therapy of bloodletting was heavily criticised.
Bouillaud's works concerned different fields of medicine; he published on hermaphroditism, on cholera, encephalitis, diseases of the heart, cancer, and various forms of fever. His main achievement, however, was in the field of rheumatism. Acute rheumatoid endocarditis is still commonly termed Bouillaud's disease in medical dictionaries in the French language. He recognised the cartilaginous and synovial lesions of this disease and was the first to describe them.
Following his 1842-1846 term as deputy for angoulême - in which he usually voted with the leftists, he, as a member of the Conseil supérieur of the university, was elected dean of the faculty of medicine, in stead of Mathéo-José-Bonaventure Orfila (1787-1853). Because of conflicts with the administration, however, he resigned this position. In 1868 he became a member of the Académie des sciences. His mind remained lucid until the very last, only weeks before his death he participated in discussions at the academy of medicine. By 1861, Bouillaud was Doyen of the Faculty, Membre de I'Institut, and head of La Charité.
In his work on diseases of the heart, Traité clinique des maladies du coeur, Bouillaud was close on trail of the damages caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Other investigators had previously noted the relationship between rheumatism and heart disease, but Bouillaud was the first to demonstrate a "law of coincidence" which statistically confirmed the correlation. Also in this work is the first description of Bouillaud's disease (rheumatic endocarditis). His discoveries were confirmed by the findings of Karl Albert Ludwig Aschoff (1866-1942) and Geipel in 1904 through the discovery of the rheumatoid nodules of the heart muscle named after them.
Bouillaud may be considered the link between Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) and Pierre Paul Broca (1824-1880) Bouillaud received part of his clinical training from Gall, and he was a founding member of the Société Phrénologique which was organized in Paris three years after Gall died. In his publication of 1825 he argued on the basis of clinical evidence that loss of speech corresponds to a lesion of the anterior lobes of the brain, and that his findings confirmed Gall's opinion on the seat of the organ of articulate language. This question was the topic of fierce debates for decades, continued, by among many others, his pupil and son-in-law Ernst Aubertin (1825-1865).