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Traite de physiologie appliquée a la pathologie

Par Broussais F. J. V.

Wednesday 21 September 2005

Paris Delaunay 1822. 2 vols. 8vo., [iv], 361; 575 pp.

First edition of Broussais’ treatise in which he lays out his doctrine of "physiological medicine." He believed that the basic aspect of living systems was excitability.

"An intrinsically inexplicable vital force involves animal proteins in a special vital chemistry, the most conspicuous product of which — and this is what distinguishes living from nonliving systems — is excitability, permitting the prompt adaptive responses of the organism to internal or external stimulation."

He opposed the tendency of the modern schools to create a single, definite clinical picture of each specific disease; he states that symptoms are subject to no law, but combine in ever varying groups, no two cases being ever found alike.

And rather than focusing on the anatomical conditions of the diseased organs in order to define the characteristics of a disease, more weight is attached to the functional disorders resulting from any such anatomical change or alteration.

Broussais (1772-1838) was a pupil of Bichat, and a professor of pathology at Paris. He began his medical career in the military, and later gave a course in practical medicine which attracted large and enthusiastic classes.

Unpopular among his medical colleagues for his theories, Broussais went into private practice, and ultimately devoting himself to the field of mental illness.