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Biographical entry Tuffier, Thédore (1857 - 1929)

KBE CB 1920; Hon FRCS July 31st 1913; MD Paris; Mem Académie de Médecin; Grand Officier Légion d'Honneur; appointed Surgeon to Hospitals at the age of 24; Professeur Agrégé in 1889. He was addressed as Professeur but was never officially made a Professor.

27 October 1929
General surgeon


Tuffier had the attributes of a southern Frenchman - tall, spare, supple, elegant, with dense black hair combed back, a jet-black pointed beard, an aquiline nose, and thick eyebrows. With restless energy he would move to and fro as he addressed his audience with precision of speech and authoritative diction; he would return brief and dogmatic answers to questions put to him. His temperament tended early to be autocratic, and although his ability was soon recognized, he was not advanced officially beyond that of Agrégé, for he was disinclined to accommodate himself to working with others; on the other hand, he remained free from the ties of a professorship.

He served for some forty years at the Hôpital de la Cité du Midi (Hôpital de la Pitié), also at the Hôpital Beaujon, and for twenty-five years as Surgeon to the Hertford British Hospital in Paris, where in later years he was Chairman of the Committee, not without friction with Resident Officers of English origin, be it said. He was a rapid and skilful surgeon who attained to a large private practice among a wealthy clientele. A good linguist and conversationalist, who travelled much, he became the best known abroad of French surgeons. He filled his house with objects of art, and entertained freely medical visitors to Paris, who flocked to his hospitals. He thus gained followers and pupils who carried away the world over what they had seen and heard from him. In return he was made a member of surgical societies in many countries - Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Roumania, Spain, Portugal, Japan, and Indo-China.

He eagerly adopted innovations in surgery, particularly from Germany, which appeared to his contemporaries to be rash and full of hazard. It doubtless raised up enemies. But these trials of novel surgery forced into his hospitals an improved service of administration and nursing in the face of general prejudice. Experience taught him the necessity of an increasing elaboration of methods of examination before proceeding to operate. He early practised direct transfusion of blood from the radial artery of the donor into the saphenous vein of the patient; attention was directed to the rapid resuscitation of the patient until drawn to the fainting of the donor from loss of blood.

In France there had been no encouragement to the development of special anaesthetists; chloroform was the routine anaesthetic, administered even in grave cases by a student, orderly, or nurse. Tuffier adopted spinal anaesthesia from Germany, at first using the dangerous cocaine, later the less dangerous substitutes. He sought to employ it as the regular measure for all operations below the diaphragm, and that without an experienced assistant to keep close watch on the patient's general state. Similarly there was at first a rather hasty resort to nephrectomy for tuberculous kidney; he soon learnt the necessity of a previous examination by pyelography and other methods.

In relation to gastro-intestinal and pulmonary procedure he made some animal experiments at the Sorbonne in the laboratory of Professor Dastre. He practised in particular an extrapleural pneumothorax. He was thus a pioneer in the surgery of the thorax, in which much experience was gained during the European War of 1914-1918. Tuffier's acquaintance with English advances in nursing enabled him to improve the service at his hospitals for the War. He recognized the importance of the researches of Sir Almroth Wright, and was instrumental in introducing the Carrell and Dakin treatment of wounds into the French hospitals. He presided at Conferences in Paris on the Organization of the Hospital Service among the Allied Armies, and also attended Conferences in London. His work for the Allied Armies was recognized by the King in 1920, when he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1920. During the war in Morocco in 1920 he introduced an aeroplane service for the transport of wounded.

He presided at many Congresses, and retained his keen aspect, his upright carriage, and his alert step until his death on Oct 27th, 1929.

"Chirurgie du Poumon en particulier dans les Cavernes tuberculeuses et la Gangrène pulmonaire." Congrès internat des Sciences médicales de Moscow (Sect de Chir), 1897. Paris, 1897.
Duplay and Reclus's Traité de Chirurgie, i-vii, 2nd ed (Rein - Urétères - Vessie - Capsules surrénales).
"Tumeurs du Rein" (with A Bréchot) in Encyclop franç d'Urologie.
"Reduction des Fractures à Ciel ouvert." - Presse méd, 1900, ii, 291.
"Analgésie Cocainique par Voie rachidien." - Semaine méd, 1900, xx, 423.
État actuel de la Chirurgie intrathoracique, Paris, 1914.
Many other contributions, including A Student's Manual of Minor Surgery (with P DEFOSSE) which passed through three editions.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Bull et Mém Soc Nat de Chir, 1929, lv, 1144. Lancet, 1929, ii, 993, 1110. Brit Med Jour, 1929, ii, 879].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England