François Gigot de La Peyronie
Biography of François Gigot de La Peyronie
François Gigot de La Peyronie was the son of a surgeon. He was educated at a Jesuit school and subsequently studied philosophy for two years before he commenced his study of surgery in his native city of Montpellier. He qualified as Maîtrise de chirurgie at the age of only nineteen, and then continued his education in Paris, where he was a pupil of Georges Mareschal (1658-1736), chief of surgery at the Hôtel-Dieu and also surgeon to King Louis XIV. Peyronie lodged in Mareschal's house.
After returning to Montpellier he became a successful lecturer of anatomy and surgery, Chirurgien-major at the Hôtel-Dieu de Montpellier and at the same time was demonstrator of anatomy at the faculty of medicine.
From 1704 he served as Chirurgien-major with the army which was raised in order to put down a rebellion in Cévennes. On an occasion he succeeded, where others had failed, in closing a fistula for the Duke of Chaulnes. In 1714 he accepted an invitation to Paris, spending the rest of his life in the capital. He was named Chirurgien-major to the Hôpital de la Charité. For a period he also taught anatomy at the amphitheatre de Saint-Come and at the Jardin-du-Roi. In 1717 he was appointed to succeed Mareschal as first surgeon to Louis XV but did not enter this position until the death of Mareschal in 1736. He was knighted in 1721.
La Peyronie took an interest in the educational system, reorganising the surgical schools and introduced demonstrators. In 1731, with Georges Mareschal, he founded the now famous Royal Academy of Surgery - Académie royale de chirurgie. He personally funded a chair of surgery and obtained four professorships at Montpellier. From 1731 he was a member of the Académie royale des sciences.
La Peyronie fought a bitter controversy with the barbers and wigmakers, and influenced the king to issue an ordnance banning barbers and wigmakers from practising, so that to become a master of surgery one had first to become a master of arts. This was now regulated by a declaration of 1743.
An immensely rich man, he had established several charitable institutions in his lifetime. To the association of Paris surgeons he bequeathed his library and an estate, as well as money to establish annual prizes in surgery. To the surgeons of Montpellier he bequeathed two mansions in the main street as well as 100.000 livres for the construction of a lecture theatre based on the Collège Saint-Côme de Paris.
He was a major force in establishing Paris as the world centre of surgery in the 18th century, and left a large number of writings on various surgical themes.