- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Armand Trousseau

Born 1801
Died 1867

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French internist, born October 14, 1801, Tours; died June 27, 1867.

Biography of Armand Trousseau

Armand Trousseau began his medical studies in his native town as a pupil of Pierre Fidele Bretonneau (1778-1862), under whose guidance he was particularly educated in clinical observation at the Hôpital générale. He continued his studies in Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1825 and already in 1827 became agrégé at the faculty.

In 1828, three years after his examination, he was assigned by the government to investigate epidemics ravaging some parts of southern France. After completing his mission the same year, Trousseau travelled to Gibraltar as a member of a commission to investigate yellow fever. This work, and a monograph on laryngeal phthisis, led to his early recognition in Paris.

In 1830 Trousseau became Médecin des hôpitaux through concours, and in 1832 received a position in public health with the Bureau central, while also working as a physician in the Hôtel-Dieu under Joseph Claude Anthelme Récamier (1774-1852). In 1837 he received the great prize of the academy. In 1839 he was appointed physician at the Hôpital St. Antoine and, following an outstanding concours, received the chair of therapy and pharmacology at the Paris medical faculty, a position in which he distinguished himself for his teaching and as a physician and diagnostician. In 1850 he assumed the chair of clinical medicine and again commenced working in the Hôtel-Dieu. Six years later, in 1856, he became a member of the Academy of Medicine.

Besides his medical activity Trousseau was also active in politics, particularly after the revolution of 1848, holding important positions. He was a member of the legislative body.

Trousseau's immense skill as practitioner and clinician justify a comparison with men such as Richard Bright (1789-1858) and Thomas Addison (1795-1860). As a leader of the French therapeutic renaissance, Trousseau was instrumental in creating new modes of treatment of croup, emphysema, pleurisy, goitre, and malaria.

Trousseau received the prize of the French Academy of Medicine for his classic essay on laryngology which originally appeared in 1837. He was the first in France to perform a tracheotomy, and wrote a monograph on this as well as intubation in 1851. His textbooks on clinical medicine and therapeutics were both extremely popular and translated into English. Trousseau also coined the term aphasia.

Armand Trousseau was above all an outstanding clinician who developed a well-deserved reputation as an exceptional lecturer and teacher and an advocate of bedside teaching through clinical demonstration. He was adored by his students and colleagues alike, due to his astuteness, integrity and generosity. Numerous students of his achieved fame.

Trousseau was a master of artistic presentation of disease cases, with the ability to describe his cases with the elegance of a novelist. In 1834, with Henri Gouraud (1807-1874) and Jacques Lebaudy Trousseau founded the Journal des connaissances médico-chirurgicales, to which he contributed prolifically. Trousseau popularised eponyms like Addison's disease, Graves' disease and Hodgkin's disease.

During his later years Trousseau suffered much – from Trousseau's syndrome! – and often had to interrupt his practice and his academic activity. Trousseau’s grandson was the distinguished ophthalmologist Armand Trousseau (1856-1910).

    A knowledge of the specific element in disease is the key to medicine.
    Clinical Medicine, Volume I, Introduction

    We do not know the mode of action of almost all remedies. Why therefore fear to confess our ignorance? In truth, it seems that the words “I do not know” stick in every physicians throat.
    Bulletin de l’Académie impériale de médecine, 1860, 25: 733

    To know the natural progress of diseases is to know more than half of medicine . . . Observe the practice of many physicians; do not implicitly believe the mere assertion of your master; be something better than servile learner; og forth yourselves to see and compare . . . knowing, henceforth, the physiognomy of the disease when allowed to run its own course, you can, without risk of error, estimate the value of the different medications which have been employed. You will discover which remedies have done no harm, and which have notably curtailed the duration of the disease; and thus for the future you will have a standard by which to measure the value of the medicine which you see employed to counteract the malady in question. What you have done in respect of one disease, you will be able to do in respect of many; and by proceeding in this way you will be able, on sure data, to pass judgment on the treatment pursued by your masters.
    Clinical Medicine, Volume I, Introduction

    Get the patient well.
    Quoted by F. H. Garrison in Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1929, 5: 157.

    Take care not to fancy that you are physicians as soon as you have mastered scientific facts; they only afford to your understanding an opportunity of bringing forth fruit, and og elevating you to the high position os a man of art.
    Clinical Medicine, Volume I, Introduction.

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