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Louis Xavier Édouard Léopold Ollier

Born  1830
Died  1900

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French surgeon, born December 2, 1830, Vans, département Ardèche; died November 26, 1900, Lyon.

Biography of Louis Xavier Édouard Léopold Ollier

Louis Xavier Édouard Léopold Ollier is particularly remembered for his work on bone and joint surgery. He was born in Vans, Ardèche, where both his father and his grandfather had been doctors. He initially studied natural science at Montpellier and in 1849 was assistant in botany in the faculty of medicine.

He was an intern of Lyon Hospital in 1851, graduated in medicine with distinction in 1856, and in 1857 obtained his doctorate at Paris with a dissertation based on histological studies of 400 malignant naoplasms.

In 1860, aged only 30 years, Ollier became chirurgien-en-chef at the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon. This building situated at the end of the bridge over the river Rhône, was one of the oldest hospitals in Europe.

When France was invaded by the Germans in 1870 he became head of the Lyons Ambulance. He was internationall recognized for his development of successful techniques of resection instead af amputation in damages to the limbs and studied the regeneration of bone by the periosteum after resection. A meticulous and thorough surgeon, he soon attracted patients from all over the world.

In 1877 a new medical faculty was established in Lyon and Ollier was appointed professor of clinical surgery.

On June 24, 1894, Ollier was made commander of the Légion d'Honneur by president Marie-François-Sadi Carnot (born 1837). That same evening the president was murdered by an Italian anarchist and Ollier was called in an attempto to remedy his wounds surgically. It was the inability of the surgeons to deal with the president’s wound effectively that led Alexis Carrel to his initial studies on techniques of vessel anastomosis.

Ollier died in Lyons in 1900 at the age of 70 years.

Ollier was revered for his role in the development of orthopedic surgery in France, After his death a monument was erected in his memory in the square outside his home and in 1930 a ceremony was held in Lyon to mark the centenary of his birth. The Museum of pathological anatomy at the University of Lyon now bears his name.

Ollier’s report of 1898 was based on a a girl aged 6 years in whom deformities of the forearm and thigh were associated with multiple swellings on the fingers. She was presented at a meeting of the Surgical Society of Lyons in June 1897. He subsequently studied another affected girl aged 9 years and demonstrated radiolucent regions in the diaphyses of her long bones.

Ollier made numerous important contributions to surgery. In 1858 he introduced a delayed dressing or closed method of treating compound fractures. He also devised the operation of astragelectomy.

Like the British surgeon Sir William Macewen (1848-1924), Ollier performed pioneering bone grafts. Although both were successful, their methods and the theory behind them were in fierce opposition. In 1872 he devised the method of skin grafting which was later improved by Karl Thiersch.

Ollier was one of the first surgeons to employ an audit on his operative procedures, stating “it is in the certification and criticism of old results that is to be found the true consecration of operative methods which are intended to be used for purposes of conservative surgery”.

From 1874 he was a correspondent to the Académie de médecine and the Institute.


  • Des plaies des veines. Doctoral thesis, Paris, 1857.
  • Des moyens chirurgicaux de favoriser la reproduction des os après les résections, etc.
    Gazette hebdomadaire de médecine et de chirurgie, Paris, 1858, 5: 572-577, 651-653, 733-736, 769-770, 853-857, 890, 899-905. Ollier’s layer.
  • Recherches expérimentales sur la production artificielle des os au moyen de transplantation du périoste, etc. 1859.
  • Traité expérimental et clinique de la régénération des os et de la production artificielle du tissu osseux.
    2 volumes; Paris, Victor Masson, 1867.
  • Des résections des grandes articulations. 1870.
  • Greffes cutanées ou autoplastiques. Ollier-Thiersh graft.
    Bulletin de l’Académie de médecine, Paris, 1872, 2 sér., 1: 243-250.
  • De l’occlusion inamovible comme méthode générale de pansement des plaies. 1874.
  • De l’éléphantiasis du nez et de son traitement. 1876.
  • Traité des résections et des opérations conservatrices qu’ on peut pratiquer sur le système nerveux. Paris, 1885-1898.
  • Exostoses multiples.
    Mémoires et comptes rendus de la Société des sciences médicales de Lyon, (1889), 1890; 29, 2: 12. Ollier’s disease.
  • G. de Mourgues:
    Leopold Ollier (1830-1900) Père de la Chirurgie Orthopedique.
    Rev Clin Orthoped, 1979, 65: 25.

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