Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Hartmann, Henri (1860 - 1952)

Hon FRCS 31 July 1913; MD Paris 1887; Grand Officier, Légion d'Honneur.

16 June 1860
Paris, France
1 January 1952
Paris, France
General surgeon and Obstetrician and gynaecologist


Born in Paris on 16 June 1860 of a family which came from Mulhouse in Alsace, he was an interne at the Hôtel-Dieu in 1881-82 under Terrier, Lailler, Lannelongue, Guyon, and Duplay, and worked at the École pratique under Faraboeuf. He was demonstrator of anatomy 1884 and prosector 1886, and he received the MD degree in 1887 winning the Prix d'Argenteuil for his thesis Des cystites douleureuses. He was appointed chirurgien des hôpitaux in 1892, graduated as agregé en chirurgie in 1895, became deputy director of operative surgery at the Hôtel-Dieu in 1898, and in 1909 was elected professor of clinical surgery in the University of Paris. He retired in 1930 but continued to direct the cancer service at the Hôtel-Dieu with his former pupil B Cunéo. He was one of the founders of the Ligue française contre le cancer.

Hartmann distinguished himself as surgeon, teacher, scientist, and administrator. He was a handsome man of simple and direct character, unspoiled by success; he was also fortunate in a singularly happy marriage. Like many of his contemporary surgeons, such as Mayo-Robson, Murphy, and Matas, he wore a beard. There is a signed photograph of him in the Honorary Fellows album in the College library.

Hartmann was particularly interested in abdominal and urinary surgery, and based his practice on profound anatomical knowledge and research. His fame will be kept alive by the long series of his advanced textbooks. His name is also recorded in the eponym of "Hartmann's pouch". Though perhaps not the first to observe it, he described the pouch of the gallbladder in his article "Quelques points de l'anatomie et de la chirurgie des voies biliaires" in the Bulletin de la Société anatomique de Paris 1891, 5th series, 5, 480. The description of this pouch is wrongly attributed in some books of reference to the earlier German anatomist Robert Hartmann.

From Terrier he learned the strictest Listerian methods, and in his own clinic he practised perfect asepsis and the most precise and silent routine. He made careful experiments towards the simplification of ligatures, took infinite pains in personal discussion with the patient to achieve successful diagnosis, and made a ruthless examination with his assistants of all failures in his operating theatres. He kept most careful records, paying great attention to following up the long-term results of his operations. He was a supreme teacher and through his voluminous writings influenced a very wide circle. His life's work was surveyed in the seven volumes of his Travaux de chirurgie anatomo-clinique published between 1903 and 1928.

With Edouard Quénu he improved the surgery of the rectum (1895), while from his master L F Terrier he derived his interest in the surgery of the stomach (1899), in which he made pioneering advances, partly based on the studies of the morbid anatomy of cancer of the stomach and the anatomy of the stomachic blood vessels undertaken for him by his pupils Fredet and Cunéo. In the surgery of the bile-ducts he had the help of another pupil, Rio Branco. With Petit-Dutaillis he studied the late results of cholecystectomies, and he extended the surgery of the spleen, pancreas, and mesocolon.

Turning to gynaecological surgery he worked at the treatment of cancer of the uterus, and with Toupet made a valuable study of the pathology of placental retention. He was a joint editor of the journal Gynécologie et Obstétrique from 1903, and editor 1920-25. His work on the solid tumours of the ovary, which follow cancer of the stomach, was outstanding.

Hartmann devoted five years at Lariboisière to a study of urinary surgical pathology, which led to valuable papers on painful cystitis (MD thesis 1887), lithiasis, tumours of the kidney, and myomas of the bladder. He was one of the first in Paris to employ the suprapubic approach for treatment of prostate hypertrophy. With his favourite pupil Paul Lecène he studied the tumours of the adipose capsule of the kidney, differentiating them from other retro-peritoneal tumours. His experience of the war surgery of 1914-18 was summarised in an excellent handbook Les plaies de guerre et leurs complications immédiates 1918.

Hartmann took a full share in the work of professional societies, where his wisdom and integrity were highly valued. He was president of the Société nationale (now the Academie) de Chirurgie in 1919 and of the Congrès français de Chirurgie and of the Académie de Médecine, of which he had been elected a member in 1919. He was admitted to the Institut de France on 19 March 1945, and was a member of at least 26 foreign medical corporations. He was elected an Honorary FRCS Ireland 1906 and an Honorary FRCS England at the last International Medical Congress in London 1913. He was president of the International Society of Surgery at its 8th Congress at Warsaw in 1929, and was on the platform in his 92nd year at the 14th Congress in Paris in September 1951.

He retained his health and intellectual ability to the end of his long life, which was saddened by the deaths of his pupils Lecène and Cunéo and of his wife, a lady of high intelligence and artistic taste.

Hartmann practised at 4 Place Malesherbes, Paris, where he died on 1 January 1952 aged 91.

Sources used to compile this entry: [I Fischer Biographisches Lexikon 1932; Brit med J 1952, 1, 167 appreciation by V Z Cope FRCS; Mémoires de l'Academie de Chirurgie, Paris, 1952, 78, 35-39 allocution de M le Président, Gaston Picot].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England