Jacques Lisfranc de Saint-Martin (1790-1847)

by Xavier Riaud*, FINS, Medal of Honour of the companions of the INS, INS Legion of Merit Medal

Jacques Lisfranc de Saint-Martin (1790-1847), © BIUS (Corlieu, 1897).


He was born on April 2nd 1790 in Saint-Paul-en-Jarez. Born into a family of doctors, he soon found his life’s work. When he was very young, he joined the Military Health Service. In 1814, he settled in Paris. He gave his name to the tarsometatarsal fracture-dislocation of which he published the results in 1815. His work was entitled Nouvelle méthode opératoire (dite de Lisfranc) pour l’amputation partielle du pied dans son articulation tarso-métatarsienne [New surgical method (so called by Lisfranc) for the partial amputation of the foot in its tarsometatarsal articulation]. Used to amputate a foot, he thus allowed a larger supporting base. His name is also associated with a shoulder disarticulation technique (Dupont, 1999). He became professor in 1823, then head surgeon at the Pitié Salpêtrière in 1824. His clinical lectures attracted people, as much as his ability to operate, which earned him a great variety of customers. Many women regularly consulted him. His Mémoire sur la rhinoplastie [His dissertation about rhinoplasty] was read during the annual meeting of the Royal Academy of Medicine in 1828 (http://fr.wikipedia.org, 2012).

He published his Clinique chirurgicale [Surgical clinic] in 3 volumes in 1842. Then, he published his Précis de Médecine opératoire[Summary of operative medicine] from 1845 to 1848, in 3 volumes, the third being completed after he died by Antoine-Joseph Jobert de Lamballe, professor of anatomy from 1831, a surgeon, then gynecologist, member of the Academy of Medicine in 1840 and of the Academy of Sciences in 1856 (http://fr.wikipedia.org, 2012).

In the novel La Débâcle (1892), Émile Zola described the shoulder disarticulation of a wounded from Sedan according to Lisfranc’s technique: "This time, it was about a shoulder disarticulation of a wounded from Sedan. The surgeons carried out Lisfranc’s method, what they called a generally nicely-done operation, something elegant and rapid, which barely took 40 seconds. First of all, the patient was given chloroform to breathe while an assistant grabbed the shoulder with two hands, the four fingers under the armpit and the thumb above. Then, armed with a long great knife, Bouroche shouted 'Made him sit!', seized the deltoid, passed the knife through his arm and cut the muscle; then, with a backward movement, he instantly detached the joint; the arm fell, collapsing after three movements. The assistant had also slid his thumbs to block the humeral artery. 'Lie him down again!' Bouroche chuckled unintentionally when ligating, as it only took him thirty-five seconds to do it. Putting the skin flap back on the wound as well as a bandage only remained. It was done rapidly as a man can bleed to death within three minutes through the humeral artery. There is also an imminent danger of death when sitting a wounded, under the action of chloroform."

He was one of the first to carry out surgical removal of rectum cancer, lithotomy for women and the amputation of cervical cancer. Finally, he implemented a technique for the amputation of the upper jaw. He died in Paris, on May 13th 1847. He was buried at the cemetery of Montparnasse. His tomb is decorated with a bronze statue which represents him during a clinical lecture (Dupont, 1999).


Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de Santé [Inter-university Health Library], personal communication, Paris, 2012.
Corlieu Auguste, Centenaire de la Faculté de Médecine de Paris (1794-1894) [Centenary of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris], Alcan – Baillère – Doin – Masson (ed.), Paris, 1896.
Dupont Michel, Dictionnaire historique des Médecins dans et hors de la Médecine [Historical Dictionary of Physicians both inside and outside Medicine], Larousse (ed.), Paris, 1999.
http://fr.wikipedia.org, Jacques Lisfranc, 2012, pp. 1-2.


(*) DDS, PhD in Epistemology, History of Sciences and Techniques, Laureate and associate member of the National Academy of Dental Surgery, Free member of the National Academy of Surgery.