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The Dark Ages

Guy de Chauliac.(1300–1368)

One of the most famous surgeons during the 14th century was Guy de Chauliac. (1300–1368) 
As the surname indicates he was born in Chauliac around about the end of the 13th century. He was educated at Toulouse; he completed his medical education under Raymond de Molière’s, at Montpellier. 

He eventually became a Master of Medicine. He also took holy orders as it is recorded he was Canon of the cathedral of Saint Just.

He practisedSurgery at Lyons and was also very active during the outbreak of the great plague which devastated most of Europe, he himself catching the disease and surviving it. His famous comment about the Plague was:

'it is so contagious...that even by looking at one another people are lilely to catch it.'. 109

He was said to have trephined Pope Clement VI and remained Physician to several Popes.

His book “The Chirurgia Magna Grande Chirurgie” was written in 1363, it was this book that contributed to the advancement of medicine.
 Guy de Chauliac posited four conditions that must be satisfied for a practitioner to be a good surgeon:

  • The surgeon should be correctly educated in surgery and anatomy
  • The Surgeon should be good at surgery, expeditious and knowledgeable.
  • The Surgeon must be ingenious; and inventive
  • The Surgeon should be able to adapt himself to the different situations.

He also described the surgeons that were abundant at the time, these were;

  • One who applied cataplasms to every wound and ulcer
  • One who used wine only
  • One who applied emollient plasters and ointments
  • Military surgeons who employed oils, wool, potions and charms.
  • Those who had recourse on all occasions to the saints. 233

Guy de Chauliac went on to become surgeon to the Popes of Rome. It was during this period in history that the art of trepanning the skull was more carefully studied and used with better precision. Herbalism was on the increase and cleanliness in general was improving. 


Quote 43

"He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless." 106



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