Jean Baptiste Octave Landry de Thézillat

Born 1826
Died 1865

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French physician and neurologist, born October 10, 1826, Limoges; died October 1865.

Biography of Jean Baptiste Octave Landry de Thézillat

Landry de Thézillat was born and brought up in Limoges, where his uncle, Dr. de Thézillat, who was a psychiatrist and neurologist, influenced his decision to study medicine. In 1850, aged 24, he was externe des hôpitaux in Paris. He volunteered to help in a cholera epidemic that swept the Département de l'Oise, decimating its population. On his return to Paris, a medal was struck for him by the grateful population of the Oise.In 1852 Landry de Thézillat interned with Claude-Marie-Stanislas Sandras (1802-1856) and Adolphe-Marie Gubler (1821-1879) at the Hôtel-Dieu and Hôpital Beaujon. Already in his student time he took a particular interest in nervous disease, which was the topic of his doctoral thesis.

Whilst an intern he proposed that both active and passive muscle movements required afferent impulses – “sens de l’activité”. He wrote a description of posterior column ataxia independently of, but four years later than Romberg.

Landry de Thézillat described ascending paralysis in 1859, the same year that Adolf Kussmaul also reported two patients, and included in his description three manifestations (1) ascending paralysis without sensory signs or symptoms, (2) ascending paralysis with concomitant anaesthesia and analgesia and, (3) a progressive generalised disorder with paralysis and sensory signs. His name became attached to the ascending form only. This was his last and greatest literary contribution. The memoir dealt with ten cases of this mysterious malady, which is now commonly termed Guillain-Barré syndrome.

In 1857 he married Claire Giustigniani (1832-1901), “d’un grande beauté, d’une distinction suprême, mais beaucoup plus riche de noblesse que d’argent” - a lady of great beauty and social standing, but little money. When his father died and left his own family in equally straitened circumstances, he also had to look after other members of his family. He therefore abandoned science and moved to a spa – Établissement hydrothérapeutique – for the treatment of nervous diseases at Auteuil. There he made an excellent living and became a man of considerable prominence.

Landry de Thézillat was a generous and modest man, who was an expert dancer and a distinguished musician with the voice of a professional singer. In short: a favourite of the salons. E. Corbet painted his portrait in 1864. He was also a fine horseman, hunter, and alpinist and was interested in geology and crystals. Already at the age of 38 he was struck by a brain disease that set an end to his contributions.

In 1865 he went to give aid to a cholera epidemic in the Paris suburbs, contracted the disease and died shortly after with Charcot in attendance.

Internett har: Edith Ellenborough Corbet.

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