Napoleon Bonaparte and his epoch
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Corvisart Jean Nicolas
(1755 — 1821)

Corvisart Jean Nicolas (1755 — 1821)

Jean-Nicholas Corvisart, an important figure in early 19th century French medicine, popularized percussion as a diagnostic tool, was the author of a major textbook on cardiovascular diseases and was Napoleon's personal physician.

The Austrian physician Leopold von Auenbrugg (1722-1809) first described the diagnostic utility of chest percussion in 1761, in his book Inventum Novum. Ahead of his time, Auenbrugg's work was criticized and ignored and he was forced to retreat to private practice and other interests (including writing the libretto for a Salieri opera!). Corvisart became interested in percussion of the chest, translated Inventum Novum from Latin into French in 1808 (the year before von Auenbrugg died), and popularized the technique.

Corvisart became professor of medicine at the Collège de France in 1797. He acquired a reputation as a skilled bedside diagnostician and an excellent teacher. His students included Laënnec, Dupuytren, Bichat and Bretonneau. Corvisart's main interest was in cardiology. He described some of the clinical features of pericardial and valvular heart disease, including the palpatory "thrill" associated with mitral stenosis. In 1806 he published a major textbook entitled Essay on the Diseases and Organic Lesions of the Heart and Large Vessels. Corvisart's most famous patient was the Emperor, Napoleon ("I do not believe in medicine, but I do believe in Corvisart"), whom he attended from 1804 until Napoleon's fall from power in 1815.

France, 1964, Corvisart

France, Paris, post office Corvisart

France, 1964.12.12, Dricourt. Corvisart


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