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May 5, 2021
19th Century Antoine Portal

Antoine Portal (1742-1832)

Cours d'anatomie medicale. Paris, Baudouin, 1804

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Antoine Portal was a French physician, anatomist, and a historian of medicine. He was one of the most prominent anatomists of the early decades of the 19th century. He was the founding president of the National Academy of Medicine ("Academie Royale de Medecine") in France in 1820.

Antoine Portal provided some of the anatomical engravings for the second edition of Senac's treatise. These magnificent engravings on cardiac structures are very detailed with a great degree of anatomical precision.

In 1804, he published his historical textbook, "Cours d'anatomie medicale", which was composed of five volumes. Although anatomy had historically been associated with surgery, Portal for the first time associated anatomy with medicine and introduced the expression "medical anatomy".

In the preface of his book, Portal stressed the fact that the knowledge of the anatomy was indispensable to recognize the causes and seat of diseases and wrote:

"Ce n'est pas seulement pour connaitre la structure du corps humain qu'on doit etudier l'anatomie, ni parce qu'elle conduit a la connaissance des usages de ses diverses parties, mais encore parce qu'elle repand sur la nature, les causes et le siege des maladies, des lumieres, sans laquelle la Medecine ne serait qu'un aveugle empirisme."

Portal's book was extremely popular and was studied extensively during the first half of the 19th century. Portal also made significant contributions to the field of pathology and was the first to describe amyloid in liver and gastrointestinal bleeding due to esophageal varices.

The section of his celebrated textbook on the anatomy of cardiac valves is displayed here.

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Jean-Nicolas Corvisart