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Dominique Anel

Born  1679
Died  1730

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French surgeon and ophthalmologist, 1679-1730.

Biography of Dominique Anel

Dominique Anel
Very little is known about the life of this famous early 18th century French physician who was born in Toulouse in 1678 or 1679. Already as garçon chirurgien at the Hospital St. Jaques in Toulouse, he published in Mercure in 1700 a case of weakening of bone in a 22 year old man, as well as letters on other topics. He left Toulouse for Montpellier, where he studied surgery for s short time, then went to Toulon to become surgeon on a French warship with which he made several voyages.

His naval career did not last long, however, as he soon went to Paris where he stayed for three and a half year, concerning himself with anatomy and studying under Jean Louis Petit (1674-1750) and George Mareschal (1658-1736). Before leaving Paris he was given a post as chirurgien major with the French army in Alsace. In the same capacity he in 1707 joined the Curassier-regiment of Graf von Gronsfeld, who was in imperial service. In this period he published a paper describing a probe he had invented "L'art de succer les playes..." for pumping liquids, that is: blood and pus from cavities and interstitial tissue. This procedure was described by Dionisio Andrea Sancassani (1659-1738) in his Dilucidiazioni*, but was critisised and not recommended.

At about this time Anel was called to Vienna to give advise in a severe case, and stayed in that town for two years, before going to Italy to serve with the Austrian army during two campaigns - spending his free time visiting Italian cities and studying surgery in their hospitals. It must also have been in this period that he became doctor of medicine in Mantua. In 1710 Anel lived for seven months in Rome, where he visited hospitals, besides practicing and teaching surgery.

It was here that he on January 30, 1710, operated a clergyman for aneurysm, an operation that he had already performed a few times. Late that year he went to Genoa, where he in 1712 performed the first operation for lacrimal fistula, using a fine-pointed syringe. He became famous for his successful treatment of abbot Fieschi, nephew of the archbishop of Genoa, for his double lacrimal fistula.

In 1713 he was called to Torino to the dowager duchess of Savoya, the mother of Victor Amadeus II, who had become king of Sardinia after the peace in Utrecht. He suffered from the same condition, and was freed of his sufferings. In consequence of this Anel was appointed her private physician and was granted a pension of 100 Louisd'or. He described his operational technique in his book Observation singulière sur la fistule lacrimale (1713).

His method won acclaim by many of the greatest of his contemporaries. From 1716 Anel had a successful practice in Paris, particularly in ophthalmology, where his reputation was unsurpassed. This, however, is not apparent from his publications. What is known about him is mostly taken from letters regarding the dispute on his operations, but after 1722 nothing more is known of his whereabouts, even his time and place of death remains unknown.

We thank Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.


  • L'art de succer les playes sans se servir de la bouche d'un homme: avec un discours d'un spécifique propre à prévenir les maladies vénériennes.
    Amsterdam 1707, 1716, 1732; Trêvoux, 1717, 1720.
  • Nouvelle méthode de guérir les fistules lacrimales, ou recueil de differentes pièces pour & contre, & en faveur de la même méthode nouvellement inventée par Dominique Anel.
    Torino, Pierre Joseph Zappatte, September 1713. Contains:
  • Observation singulière sur la fistule lacrimale, dans laquelle l'on verra que la matière des fistules lacrimales s'évacue très-souvent par les points lacrimaux etc; par le moyen de deux opérations nouvellement inventées, et mises en pratique le 20 février 1713.
  • Nouvelle, et très exacte description anatomique du conduit lacrimal.
  • Informazione fatta dal chirurgo Francesco Signorotti . . . contro Monsu’ Domenico Anel.
    An attack on Anel’s operation by Francesco Signorotti, a Genuese surgeon.
  • Lettres diverses, ou les critiques de la critique del signor Francesco Signorotti en faveur de la nouvelle methode de guerir la fistule lacrimale nouvellement inventée. Turin: J. F. Mairesse & J. Radix, 1713.
  • Traite de la goutte, qui contient une manière süre et facile de la guérir, éprouvée par l’auteur même qui était affligé de cette maladie.
    Amsterdam, 1713.
  • Observation singulière sur la fistule lacrimale, dans la quelle l’on verra, que la matière des fistules lacrimales s’evacuë très souvent par les points lacrimaux; en même tems l’on aprendra la méthode de les guéris radicalement, etc.
    Pierre Joseph Zappatte, 1713.
    Lacrimal duct catheterised for the first time.
  • Suite de la nouvelle méthode de guérir les fistules lacrimales, ou discours apologétique, dans laquel on a inséré différentes pièces en faveur de la même méthode, inventée l’an 1713 etc.
    Turin: Jean Francis Daresse and Jean Radix, 1714.
  • Observation singulière d’un foetus trouvé dans une masse membraneuse, rendue par une dame aux sixième mois de sa grossesse.
    Genoa, April 1713 : Jean Baptiste Cionico. Report to the Academy, 1714.
  • Dissertation sur la nouvelle d'écouverte de l'hydropisie du conduit lacrimal ....; de la cure des fistules lacrimales et la manière de donner à boire par l'oeil. Paris 1716.
  • Rélation d’une maladie extraordinaire qui s’est déclarée par une enorme tumeur, laquelle occupait toute l’étendue du ventre d’un homme, que cette corconstance faisait croire hydropique.
    Paris, 1722. Concerning an enormous tumor, in which he reported more than 7000 ”foreign bodies” pictured in 38 figures; apparently a large ecchinococcussack.
  • Antoine Baron Portal (1742-1832):
    Histoire de l’anatomie de de la chirurgie, contenant l’origine et les progrès de ces sciences etc.
    7 volumes, Paris 1770-1773). Volume IV, 1770, page 396.
  • Biografia med. Piemontese, II, page 10.
  • Biographical Dictionary of the Society of the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, II, 2, page 697.
  • Achille Chéreau (1817-1885) in A. Dechambre: Dictionnaire encyclopédiques des sciences médicales. 100 volumes. Paris, Asselin et Masson, 1864-1889. Volume IV, page 325.
  • August Hirsch, publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker.
    Urban & Schwarzenberg. 2nd edition. Berlin, 1929. First published in 6 volumes 1884-1888. 3rd edition, München 1962.
  • John Price:
    Dominique Anel and the small lachrymal syringe.
    Medical History, October 1969, 13 (4): 340­354.
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