Georg Clemens Perthes

Born 1869
Died 1927

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German surgeon, born January 17, 1869, Mörs, Rheinland; died January 3, 1927, Arosa, Switzerland.

Biography of Georg Clemens Perthes

Georg Clemens Perthes lost both his parents early. After his mother died of tuberculosis, his father had taken the family to Davos in Switzerland, where he taught tuberculous children. However, his father died soon afterwards and Georg was brought up by his maiden aunt, Agnes Perthes.

His choice of medicine for a career was influenced by family connections with the famous surgeon Friedrich Trendelenburg (1844-1924). He spent his student years at the universities of Freiburg im Breisgau, Berlin, and Bonn, receiving his doctorate at the latter university in 1891. For a brief period he was assistant in clinical surgery under Trendelenburg in Bonn, but when Trendelenburg later that year was appointed to succeed Karl Thiersch (1822-1895) in Leipzig, Perthes followed his boss there. He was habilitated in 1898.

In 1900-1901 Perthes participated in the German war expedition against China as an army surgeon. He took the opportunity to undertake radiological studies of the feet of Chinese women, which had been crushed and bound in the traditional manner. Today, Germany's presence in China is mainly the famous Tsingtao beer. Tsingtao was under German control from 1898 to 1914.

Perthes then returned to Leipzig, where he, in 1903, was appointed etatsmässiger ausserordentlicher professor and director of the surgical-policlinic institute. Here he made important surgical innovations, including the development of suction drainage for empyema and the use of a pneumatic cuff - Hohlmanschette - for haemostasis during limb operations.

In 1910 Perthes succeeded Paul von Bruns (1846-1916) as head of the surgical clinic at Tübingen.

One of Perthe’s main fields of work was the biological effect of x-rays. He initiated deep X-ray therapy in 1903 and became the founder of radiological therapy in the treatment of warts, skin cancer and carcinoma of the breast. He was an early pioneer in the use of X-rays in cancer treatment. One area where there was an evident surge of new information with the introduction of the X-ray was that of osteochondritis and osteonecrosis. Perthes took the first X-rays of Calvé-Legg-Perthes disease in 1898, but his assistant did not publish these until 1914.

He rejoined the German army in World War I, and after active service, moved back to a base hospital where he treated many soldiers with wounds involving the peripheral nerves. His experience in this sphere was subsequently documented in texts that he wrote on the surgical management of injuries to the nerves and the mandible.

In 1927, while enjoying a Christmas Holiday in Arosa, Switzerland, Perthes died suddenly from a stroke at the age of 58 years.

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