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Armand Trousseau was born in Tours in 1801. He was a pupil of Pierre Fidèle Bretonneau (1778–1862) in Tours before graduating in Paris in 1825. He became agrégé (qualified) in 1826 and made his early reputation on yellow fever and laryngeal phthisis. The first to undertake tracheotomy in 1831, he popularised this intervention in the treatment of croup, usually due to diphtheria; he had a 25% success rate in 200 reported cases. With Belloc he wrote a laryngeal classic in 1837 and with Pidoux a text on therapeutics (1839). He was also the first to aspirate the pleural cavity (1843) and gave the first description of haemochromatosis.
In 1839 Trousseau was appointed physician to the Hôpital Ste Antoine in Paris, later moving as physician-in-chief to the Hôtel-Dieu in 1850. He appreciated the value of bedside observation and was an outstanding clinician and teacher. He was also extremely popular with colleagues and students because of the keenness of his intellect, his integrity, and generosity (fig 1).
In 1861–2 he published his famous two volume textClinique Médicale de l’Hôtel-Dieu. This great work went through many editions, the third of which (1868) was translated into English by Sir John Cormack and published by the New Sydenham Society.1 It contained many accurate descriptions of diseases, especially the common infections of childhood such as scarlet fever, measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough, cholera infantum and neonatal syphilis. Trousseau realised the importance of Pasteur’s work on fermentation and supported the doctrine of the specific nature of disease, as the following extract on puerperal fever and erysipelas of the newborn shows.1
On puerperal infection
“...are we not somewhat warranted to inquire, whether there does not exist in the atmosphere a morbid germ, which being deposited on the umbilical, or placental, wound, …