Today Would Have Been Dupuytren’s Birthday
Guillaume Dupuytren (10/5/1777 – 2/8/1835) was born on this day in Pierre-Buffières, France. He excelled in anatomic studies and was appointed assistant surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris at the age of 26. He rose to the position of head surgeon at the Hôtel-Dieu and remained so until his death from complications of tuberculosis.
Dupuytren was a gifted diagnostician, lecturer, and surgeon, and during his lifetime was possibly the most famous surgeon in Europe. He was chosen by Napoleon to be his personal surgeon and was given the title of Baron. He is mentioned in writings by Balzac and referred to in Madame Bovary, Les Miserables, The Hundred Days, Master and Commander novels, and other literature.
Several medical conditions are named after Dupuytren, the most famous being Dupuytren contracture which causes the fingers to become permanently bent. This condition had been previously described by other surgeons but became known as Dupuytren contracture following a teaching presentation Dupuytren gave on June 12th, 1831, in which he demonstrated his corrective operation.
Dupuytren was a brilliant surgeon but often clashed with his peers and others. Dupuytren was a difficult personality, and similarly, Dupuytren contracture is a difficult disease.
Dupuytren’s legacy was to direct attention to an important disease which had not been previously named. Work continues after his death to improve long-term outcomes of families those affected by Dupuytren disease. Dupuytren would be proud to see current research using genomic and molecular biology tools focused on developing a prevention and cure for the disease which still bears his name.