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Don Manuel Louise Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbos

Born 1734
Died 1816

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Spanish anatomist and surgeon, born 1734, Cambrils, in the province of Terragona, Catalania, died November 17, 1816, Madrid.

Biography of Don Manuel Louise Antonio de Gimbernat y Arbos

Don Manual Louise Antonia de Gimbernat y Arbos was born to a family of modest means in Cambrils in Catalonia and was baptised in Tarragona on February 15, 1734. He first studied Latin and philosophy at the University of Cervera, and then changed to medicine at the School of Surgery in Cadiz. – Real Colegio de Cirugía de Cádize. This hospital had been established by Fernando VI to serve the men of the Spanish armada, which had its base in Cadiz. Even before he completed his studies, Gimbernat had become a temporary Professor. He graduated in 1762.

Following graduation he joined the Spanish navy. However, due to his skills in anatomical dissection, in 1765 he was invited to become professor of anatomy at the Royal School of Surgery in Barcelona – Real Colegio de Cirugía de Barcelona., working in the Hospital de la Santa Cruz y San Pablo.

He held this position from 1762 to 1774 and it was there, in 1768 he demonstrated the lacunar ligament of the femoral canal as well as his technique for hernial repair. He also invented a lithotom for renal lithiasis which was very popular in his time.

Gimbernat was a pioneer in ophthalmology, vascular surgery, and urology, recognized as a daring surgeon who based his surgical technique on well established anatomical principles. He is known throughout the world because of the contribution to knowledge of the anatomy of the diaphragm.

In 1774, supported by King Carlos III, Gimbernat travelled in Europe to learn the latest in surgery. With his colleague Mariano Rivos he visited the Hôpital de la Charité and the Hôtel Dieu in Paris, and the schools in London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam. In London he visited John Hunter, whom Gimbernat taught his technique for dealing with diaphragmatic hernia. On April 25, 1777, he demonstrated his technique for reparation of diaphragmatic hernia to one of Hunter's classes. He then continued his educational journey in Edinburgh and Leiden, before returning to Spain in 1778.

Upon his return to Spain, Gimbernat became engaged in the establishment of the Royal School of Surgery there – the Collegi de Cirugia de San Carlos. From January 27, 1787, he was director and professor of surgery and traumatology at the new school.

In 1789 he became a member of the king's medical cabinet, serving as personal physician to King Carlos III. Later that year he was ennobled. In 1801 he was appointed First Royal Surgeon – Primer Cirujano Real – and president of all surgical schools in Spain.

During Napoleon's invasion of Spain, Gimbernat, as so many Spanish liberal intellectuals, collaborated with the invaders, hoping for a liberalisation of political life in the country. However, after the war he was dismissed from all his positions by King Fernando VII.

The caused him great distress, his health deteriorated and he began to lose his vision. After an unsuccessful operation performed by Josep Ribes on August 8, 1810 he became completely blind. He died in Madrid on November 17, 1816.

We thank Milan Breberina for information submitted.

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