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Biographical entry Veau, Victor (1871 - 1949)

Hon FRCS 31 July 1947; MD Paris 1901.

8 December 1871
Auxey, Burgandy
16 May 1949
Paediatric surgeon


Born at Auxey in Burgundy on 8 December 1871, the son of a landed proprietor and wine-grower, he was educated at a Jesuit school and at Dijon University. Transferring to Paris he discovered his taste for anatomy, was placed first in the examination for externes, served under Delbet 1894, under Rigal and Widal in his year as interne provisoire (1895), was again placed first in the examination for the internat (1896), and served under Tillaux at the Charité, under Nélaton, Terrier, and Reclus, and under Brun at the Enfants-Malades, where his interest in the surgery of children was formed. He won the gold medal in 1900 and served under Ricard, and in his final year was assistant to Terrier and Ricard. In 1901 he became prosector and anatomical assistant in the Faculty. He graduated in surgery in 1906 as a contemporary of R Proust, Wiart, and Georges Labey, who all achieved subsequent distinction. Veau was appointed assistant to Jalaquier, who had never seen him before, at the Enfants-Assistes on 18 October 1906, and devoted his whole career to this hospital, succeeding his chief and retiring on 25 December 1933, when he was succeeded by André Martin. He subsequently worked at the Hopital Saint-Michel.

Veau was interested in all aspects of the surgery of children, but devoted himself to perfecting the operations for facial malformations. He not only improved the technique of the operations for split-palate and hare-lip, but the methods of feeding and nursing small children after operation, and with Mlle S Borel (Mme Maisonny) their education in speaking. He also made a profound study of the embryological etiology of these malformations, and concluded that they are the result of abnormalities in the formation of the face by reabsorption of the bucco-nasal membrane and not, as had been believed, by a failure of the two sides of the embryonic facial tissues to meet. Veau's two books which summarize his life-work became classics, and his work on speech-education was awarded the Montyon prize. He made many contributions to the literature and contributed to various "systems", and wrote a textbook of current practice and emergency surgery (1904), which ran to nine editions. At one time, 1909-11, he was much interested in the prospects of thymectomy, but abandoned the operation in favour of radio-therapy.

Veau was a man of sincere modesty and self-criticism, always ready to promote other men's work of which he thought well, for instance Fredel's operation for congenital pyloric stenosis. But he was also ready to defend his own work and opinions in controversy, chiefly in the Bulletin of the Academy of Medicine. He was elected to the Académie (then Société nationale) de Chirurgie on 19 December 1917 and to the Académie de Medécine in October 1940. He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1947, and was an Officier of the Legion of Honour. Veau married young, but had no children. His wife died in 1929; and thereafter he became something of a recluse. He was a man of few, intimate friends. He lived at 59 Rue de Laborde, Paris, with a country house, where he spent the last summers, at Avallon near his childhood's home. In early years he had been an assiduous visitor of German and Swiss clinics, and was one of the few French surgeons admired in Germany. Between the wars he used to winter at Ismailia on the Suez canal. His amusement in his last years was the repair of old French clocks. He suffered for some time from the after-effects of severe diphtheria, contracted when performing a tracheotomy. Meticulous and formal in his dress and manners, Veau had a very warm heart. A signed photograph is in the Honorary Fellows' album. He died on 16 May 1949.


Etude de 1'épithélioma branchial du cou; branchiome malin de la region cervicale. Paris MD thesis, 1901.
Pratique courante et chirurgie d'urgence. Paris, Masson, 1904.
Chirurgie du thymus. Bull Soc Pédiat, Paris, 1909, 11, 129, and with E Olivier Ibid p 307, and with the same, J méd franç 1911, 6, 122.
Ablation du thymus, with E Olivier. Ann Méd Chir inf 1909, 13, 523-664; Arch Méd Enf 1909, 12, 815; Gaz Mal inf 1910, 12, 9.
Division palatine: anatomie, chirurgie, phonétique, avec Mile S Borel. Paris, Masson, 1931. 568 pages, 786 illustrations.
Bec-de-lièvre: formes cliniques, chirurgie. Paris, Masson, 1938. 326 pages. 1214 illustrations.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brindeau, presidential allocution, Bull Acad nat Méd 1949, 133, 382; Georges Kuss, Mém Acad Chir 1949, 75, 464-468; Marcel Lance, Gaz Hôp, Paris, 1949, 122, 310].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England