["The hysterotomotokie or Caesarian birth" of Francois Rousset (Paris, 1581). The book of an impostor or that of a precursor?]

Hist Sci Med. 1996;30(2):259-68.
[Article in French]


In the year 1581, François Rousset, a Parisian physician published "L'hystérotomotokie ou enfantement césarien ...", suggesting for the first time a "laparotomy" with hysterotomy in the parturiant who could not be confined in the ordinary way, this of course being done in the last resort. This surgical intervention was not usually performed until then before the woman's death. Rousset is the man who gave this operation the name Caesarean section in memory of the supposed birth of Caesar. In support of this proposal, he gathered ten observations, six of them in which he personally took part in without operating himself, as he was not a surgeon. Moreover, he did endeavour, by use of reason as well as authoritative arguments, to produce evidence that this intervention was actually feasible, saving sometimes the mother and child's lives while preserving the possibility of future pregnancy. The last part of the book is devoted to a detailed and meticulous description of the intervention. This revolutionary proposal was coldly received and vigourously opposed by the medical milieu, especially by Ambroise Paré. It was not more favoured in the course of the next two centuries and Rousset was often considered as an impostor, his opposers considering this intervention as inevitably entailing death and it success being miraculous. Those who approved were few and cautious and only exceptionnaly took heed of it. It is only in the nineteenth century that Rousset's book was noticed and acknowledged. Written in French, it was essentially intended for surgeons and won him the name of Father of the ceasarean section.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / history*
  • Female
  • France
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, Modern 1601-
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy

Personal name as subject

  • F Rousset