Guy De Chauliac Biography

Guy De Chauliac
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Quick Facts

Born: 1300

Died At Age: 68

Born in: Chaulhac

Famous as: Surgeon and Physician

Surgeons French Men

Died on: July 25, 1368

place of death: Avignon, France

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Who was Guy De Chauliac?

Guy de Chauliac was a popular surgeon of the Early Medieval Period. After completing his Master’s in medicine, he rapidly ascended to the position of physician and surgeon within a matter of few years. Apart from being a doctor and surgeon of great repute in France, he was also a personal physician to three different Popes. His famous work in Latin, called “Chirurgia Magna”, states the basics of surgery and covers ulcers, anesthesia, plasters and drugs. These were covered over an elaborate ‘seven-volume’ collection that was also translated into various languages for the accessibility of other surgeons. Apart from his famous works, Chauliac was also known as the man who ‘dared’. He dared to treat and serve patients afflicted with ‘Pestilences’ when all other doctors fled with fear. Among the first to describe and differentiate the two types of plagues, Guy de Chauliac took great pride in his work. He was also known as the ‘Father of Surgery’ and was an example of a surgeon who ‘bore his torch’ with flair and precision.
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Childhood And Early Life
Guy de Chauliac was born in the cozy town of Chaulhac, Lozere in France. Born to a peasant family in the early 1300’s, he was the only child who took to medicine and cultivated an interest for the subject from a very tender age. Chauliac went on to study medicine as a subject for the first time at Toulouse, following which he transitioned to Montpellier, which was the epicenter of medicine during the medieval period. Here, he fostered his passion for the subject and decided to specialize in the field of surgery. Between the periods of 1315 to 1320, he studied and lived in Paris, after which, he received his Master’s of Medicine and Surgery degree in the year 1325.
Following his graduation, Chauliac shifted to Bologna, where he studied anatomy under a renowned personality called Nicola Bertuccio. After learning the art of surgery from Bertuccio, it is said that Chauliac avoided using the knife on living beings and only practiced on dead bodies, including those of the different Popes, for learning and practice.

After being educated by Nicola Bertuccio, Chauliac shifted from Bologna permanently and left for Lyons to begin his career. He was appointed as a cleric at the St. Just and went ahead with his dreams of becoming a noteworthy physician. He rapidly ascended from the post of clergyman to the position of a personal doctor of the various bishops and church members. He had assumed office in Avignon where most of the Popes lived and took shelter. Hence, Chauliac started to offer his medical services to several cardinals such as Pope Innocent the 6th, Pope Urban the 5th and Pope Clement the 6th. During his tenure at Avignon, and as a regular member of the Roman Catholic Church, he was offered the position of a ‘Papal clerk’ at the building along with having the license to treat these priestly beings.
During 1348, Avignon was stricken with a deadly pandemic that took the lives of many of Chauliac’s closest friends. Deeply disturbed by the event, Chauliac wanted to put a stop to the problem once and for all, and at a time when other surgeons fled, Chauliac decided to stay put and treat people afflicted with the ‘Black Death’. One of the most devastating contagions of the fourteenth century, the Black Death was said to have reduced the world’s population drastically along with affecting European history permanently. Chauliac directly started treating his patients along with noting the visible symptoms of the deadly disease. According to Chauliac, the pandemic could be divided into two types of lethal plagues; one being the pneumonic plague that infected the lungs and the respiratory system while the other was Bubonic plague that infected the lymphatic system. The Plague was said to have begun with the Jews carrying the heredities for the disease. However, Chauliac boldly refuted the theory and blamed the Plague on scientific occurrences within the atmosphere.

‘Chirurgia Magna’
Guy de Chauliac’s reputation soared as a physician in the post-pandemic period and just five years prior to his death, he began writing and creating a medical ‘standard’ on surgery, in Latin. This was his legendary, published work that inspired thousands of other surgeons across the globe. Written during the medieval period, this dissertation, made in 7 volumes, was the first step to opening the doors to modern surgery. It was called the ‘Chirurgia Magna’ and came out in multifarious languages including English, Italian, Hebrew, French and Dutch to name a few. It covered all basic aspects of surgery including anesthesia, blood clotting, surgical tools, diets and the different processes of performing surgeries such as suturing and intubation. During the Medieval time, this treatise was a bold step in the domain of medicine and modern science. Completed in 1363, this compilation stayed in popular use until the early stages of the 17th century. He also greatly emphasized on the human ‘Anatomy’, which he considered a basic theory in the domain of medicine. Along with his treatise, he wrote dissertations on astrology, treatments for eye problems such as cataracts and also wrote about hernia.

Personal Life
Chauliac was very reserved about his personal life, and very little has been documented about what he did during his free time. It was said that Chauliac believed in the healing powers of ‘nature’, and therefore spent much of his time researching on ‘Herbalism’ when he was not working or practicing. 

Death And Legacy
Guy de Chauliac died on 25th July 1368 at Avignon, during the exile of the Papal legacy. His celebrated work, the ‘Chirurgia Magna’ went on to inspire surgeons and physicians for the following three centuries. Although many historians and physicians criticized his works on surgical treatments, he still managed to inspire a long list of surgeons and doctors around the world. He was labeled “Father of Surgery”, and according to Chauliac himself, the title was given rightly so.


1300 :

Born to a peasant family in Lozere, France.

1315 :

Lived in Paris and studied Medicine.

1325 :

Graduated with a Masters in Medicine and Surgery in Paris.

1335 :

Lived in Avignon and served the Bishops as a private physician.

1348 :

Helped and saved the lives of many who were afflicted with the deadly plagues.

1360 :

Saved countless lives once more during the second plague and differentiated between the pneumonic and bubonic plagues.

1363 :

Wrote the famous ‘Chirurgia Magna', that went on to inspire surgeons till the 17th century.

1368 :

Died in Avignon at the age of 68.

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