Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version



1983. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, XI:85-88. Copyright © 1983 Krush


Xavier Bichat was born in Thoirette, France, on 11 November 1771, the oldest son of Jean-Baptiste Bichat, a physician. As a young man, Bichat went to the city of Lyon and became the pupil of a surgeon, M.-A. Petit. In 1793, he went to the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital and studied under the surgeon, P.-J. Desault; they became close friends. Desault died at age 47 in 1795 leaving unfinished a four-volume manuscript on surgery. Faithfully, Bichat completed this work. Bichat was named Physician of Hôtel-Dieu Hospital at 1ge 28. There, he continued his research on cadavers and treatment of patients; his writing included treatises on the treatment of membranes (coverings of organs, such as pleura and meninges), and descriptive anatomy. He was preparing a third volume on anatomy when he died on 22 July 1802. He was one of the first to link anatomy and physiology with the practice of medicine. Bichat was one of the earliest physicians to describe the lesions of cancer, beginning with descriptions at the cellular level and proceeding with those in glands, arteries, bones, membranes, mucous system (organs with internal cavities), and skin. Bichat noted that only by continued observation of different forms of tumors and cancer could they be classified. That had been his plan when death intervened at the age of 30.

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