- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Marie Philibert Constant Sappey

Born  1810
Died  1896

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French anatomist, born 1810, Cernon near Bourg-en-Bresse, département Ain; died March 15, 1896.

Biography of Marie Philibert Constant Sappey

Marie Philibert Constant Sappey studied in Paris and became doctor of medicine in 1843. Subsequently he was agrégé for the surgical sciences and chief of anatomical works, before he commenced lecturing in anatomy in 1860. When the chair of anatomy was vacated he was called to the professorship of this discipline, succeeding Jean-François Jarjavay (1815-1868). He held this position from 1868 to 1886.

Sappey was elected to the Academy of Medicine in 1862, and in 1887 became its president. Sappey is rightly considered one of the most prominent French anatomists of the 1900th century. Particularly important are his description of the lymphatic vessel system. His anatomical preparations were highly valued, as were his literary works.

In 1874 he published his comprehensive atlas, including an anatomic study of cutaneous lymphatic drainage. Before Sappey, several attempts had been made to make the lymphatic vessels visible. The Dutch anatomist Anton Nuck (1650-1692) had devised a method of injecting mercury into the lymphatic vessels. Two hundred years later, Sappey refined this procedure. He injected mercury into the skin of cadavers and defined demarcation lines that passed down the midline front and back, and along a horizontal line around the waist at the level of the umbilicus anteriorly, and to the level of the L2 vertebra posteriorly. Sappey's results demonstrated lymphatic drainage based on anatomic location. Sappey's work was continued by Henri Rouviere (1876-1952).


  • Recherches sur l’appareil respiratoire des oiseaux. Paris, 1847.
  • Traité d’anatomie descriptive avec figures intercalées dans le texte.
    Paris. 3 volumes, 1847-1863. 2nd edition in 4 volumes, 1867-1874.
    The first French work on anatomy unifying descriptive anatomy and histology.
  • Recherches sur la conformation extérieure et la structure de l’urèthre de l’homme. 1854.
  • Memoire sur un point d'anatomie pathologique relatic à l'histoirede la cirrhose.
    Mémoires de l'Académie impériale de medecine, Paris. 1859, 23: 267-278.

  • Anatomie, physiologie, pathologie des vaisseaux lymphatiques considerées chez l’homme et les vertébres.
    Paris, A. Delahaye & E. Lacrosnier, 1874-1874. Notable for its illustrations.
  • Atlas d’anatomie descriptive. 1879 etc.
  • Études sur l’appareil mucipare et sur le système lymphatique des poissons. 1880. Biographical etc:
  • Julius Leopold Pagel (1851-1912), publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon hervorragender Ärzte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts.
    Urban & Schwarzenberg, Berlin and Vienna, 1901.
  • August Hirsch (1817-1894), publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker.
    2nd edition. Berlin, Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1929.
    First published in 6 volumes 1884-1888. 3rd edition, München 1962.
  • L. Arvy and R. Rivet:
    [Marie Philibert Constant Sappey (1810-1896). The man and the lymphologist.] Article in French.
    Bulletin de l'Association des Anatomistes, Nancy, March 1976, 60 (168): 63-79.
  • Richard Toellner:
    Illustrierte Geschichte der Medizin. Andreas & Andreas Verlag, Salzburg, 1990.
    Original title: Histoire de la Médicine, de la Pharmacie, de l'Art Dentaire et de l'Art Vétérinaire. Paris 1978.
  • Jeremy M. Norman, editor:
    Morton’s Medical Bibliography. An annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton).
    Fifth edition. Scolar Press, 1991.
  • Christina L. Corey, M.D.
    Advances in the Treatment of Melanoma.
    On the website of the Bobby R. Alford Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck surgery. January 26, 2006.
  • J. Tainmont:
    A historical vignette. Turbulence around the otoliths. Sappey's hostility and Breschet's defence.
    B-ENT (formerly ACTA Otorhinolaryngologica Belgica), 2006, 2 (2): 99-102.

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