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Biographical entry Merle d'Aubigné, Aime Robert (1900 - 1989)

Légion d'Honneur; L'Ordre du Mérite; Médaille de la Resistance; Croix de Guerre; Hon FRCS 1969; Hon FRCS.

23 July 1900
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
17 October 1989
General surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon


Aime Robert Merle d'Aubigné was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine on 23 July 1900, the son of Charles Merle d'Aubigné, a Protestant pastor of Huguenot descent. His paternal grandfather was a professor of theology at Geneva and an authority on the history of the Reformation. He had a strict religious education which imparted a strong sense of duty to him and was educated at the Lycée Pasteur in Paris. At the age of 18 he served in the French Army during the last months of the first world war.

He subsequently received his medical training in Paris, qualifying in 1924, and was appointed resident at the University Hospital, where he won the gold medal in 1928. In 1930 he became assistant to Pierre Duval initially doing general surgery but gradually his interest in orthopaedic surgery widened, although this was still a neglected speciality at that time. His outlook however was very cosmopolitan possibly because of his Irish and Swiss grandmothers, and he became a keen traveller abroad, particularly to Austria where he visited Boehler, and to Bologna in Italy where he was influenced by Putti's work.

He was appointed consultant surgeon in 1936, but was isolated from international orthopaedics by the onset of the second world war, when he served with the French Army until the collapse of France. He continued his surgery in occupied Paris and was active with the French Resistance, narrowly escaping arrest by the Gestapo in 1944. After the liberation he worked with Allied medical teams in France and was decorated for his work with the Resistance. He later travelled to England to visit American and British hospitals, and was considerably influenced by Watson-Jones, Seddon, Clark, Platt, Charnley and others. He was interested to learn of the advances in orthopaedic surgery which had taken place during the previous five years, commenting that "I learnt more every day of those two weeks than in any of the past ten years", and he determined to fill that void in France.

He subsequently created the first specialised orthopaedic service in post-war France at the Hôpital Foch (a temporary military hospital) in Paris, working on problems of bone infection, nerve injuries, tendon transplantation and non-union of fractures. On the retirement of Professor Paul Mathieu he was appointed to the Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hôpital Cochin in Paris in 1948, and together with Judet and Cauchoix he played a major part in its development as a modern orthopaedic department. He gradually built up an outstanding reputation for teaching and research so that at the time of his death seventeen of the twenty-four chefs de service in orthopaedics in the Paris area had formerly held junior posts in his department. He was a frequent visitor to British and American centres and was awarded Honorary Fellowships of the American, English and Edinburgh Colleges. In 1959 he became President of the Société Française d'Orthopédie. He was President of the International Society of Orthopaedics which met in Paris in 1966 and published numerous books and articles on orthopaedic subjects. He became an international traveller and lecturer and in this country he delivered the Robert Jones lecture in 1954 and the Watson-Jones lecture in 1963. He received the Légion d'Honneur, l'Ordre du Mérite and the Croix de Guerre from his own country and numerous honorary Fellowships and Doctorates from foreign countries. His hobbies were skiing, climbing and sailing. He was married twice. His first wife was Anna. His second wife, Christine, survived him, and also two children Catherine and Jean by his first marriage. He died on 17 October 1989.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Chirurgie 1991, 116, 564-7].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England