Jean Marc Bourgery

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Jean Marc Bourgery about 1830

Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery , also Marc Jean Bourgery (born May 19, 1797 in Orléans , France , † June 1849 in Paris ) was a French anatomist . Within 20 years he created the comprehensive anatomy textbook Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme with the draftsman Nicolas Henri Jacob .


He was the son of the haberdashery Marc Claude Bourgery and his wife Madeleine Marthe Delaboulaye, he grew up in Orléans.

education and profession

Back muscles

Bourgery chose to study medicine in Paris in 1813. In 1815 he also attended lectures by the naturalist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck , then a professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. After the admission test, Bourgery worked as a clinical assistant doctor (internal) for one year (1817) with René Laënnec at the Hôpital Necker and two years (1818-1820) with Guillaume Dupuytren at the Hôtel Dieu .

Bourgery did not complete his medical training at first, due to lack of money, so it is reported. Instead, he worked for several years as a health officer (Officier de Santé) in a copper foundry in Romilly sur Seine (Département Aube), where he dealt with chemistry, chemical process engineering and was involved in establishing a factory for copper sulfate .

In 1827 Bourgery returned to Paris with the intention of devoting himself entirely to anatomy. On August 27 of the same year he submitted his dissertation and was awarded a doctorate in medicine. In 1829 he published a surgical text book (Traité de petite chirurgie) , which was quite successful, also appeared in English (1834) and German (1836). The model and mentor of Bourgerys was the anatomist and paleontologist Georges Cuvier .

From 1830 Bourgery was busy planning his main work, Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme , together with the draftsman and illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob . It took almost 20 years of joint work before this magnum opus was completed. From 1840 he wrote scientific treatises (often provided with lithographs) which were published by the Academy of Sciences in Paris. In addition, he was also involved in the production of anatomical models made of stucco or paper mache for Félix Thibert's anatomy museum.

Bourgery tried again and again for employment at a university or academy. He took part in numerous selection processes, for example for a professorship at the Museum of Natural History, for membership in the Paris Academy of Sciences (1843) and for the anatomical chair of the medical faculty in Paris (1846). Despite his expertise and great reputation, Bourgery failed to gain a foothold in the academic world. Shortly before his death, he expresses himself with a certain bitterness: “I watched as everyone else was preferred to me, whether they were entitled to it or not. Since I had so much to say about a science that I had studied so intensely, I thought there must be some place for me there: but no. Academies, faculties, colleges - I introduced myself everywhere, and everywhere there were others who were more successful. ”Jean Marc Bourgery died at the age of 52 after completing his work, probably as a victim of a cholera epidemic in Paris.


Cerebrum , cerebellum , brain stem and cervical medulla

The anatomical treatise Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme by Bourgery and Jacob (Paris 1831 to 1854), large-format textbook and illustrated atlas, is considered a masterpiece of anatomical imaging, black and white and in color (hand-colored). Bourgery did not limit himself to the mere compilation of already existing material in this ambitious project. He supported his findings with autopsies and produced original anatomical specimens himself. He dealt with aspects of morphology that had previously been neglected, developed numerous new methods and research approaches , which he described systematically and in detail. Bourgery tried hard to always be up to date. He made numerous first observations, especially in the areas of anatomy of the nervous system , embryology and organogenesis . Metaphysically, he saw himself as a traveler in search of a universal structure, the secret of which he hoped to unravel through persistent study of the supreme discipline of anatomy - far more than just an encyclopedic collection of morphological findings. Bourgery carried out research outside the university and was occasionally supported by well-known scientists ( Mathieu Orfila , François Magendie , Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and others).

The anatomical work

The complete treatise on human anatomy ( Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme ) by JM Bourgery and NH Jacob comprises eight folio volumes with 2108 pages of text, contains 725 plates with 3750 individual illustrations (anatomical atlas) and was published in Paris in 1831 published by 1854. The first five volumes deal with descriptive anatomy, two further volumes are devoted to surgical anatomy and operating theory, and the last volume is devoted to general and philosophical anatomy. The eight text volumes are written in an encyclopedic style and do not refer to the images. Each volume of text is assigned an illustrated volume with lithographed picture panels, picture captions and accompanying text.

Work section, publication theme scope
Volume 1, 1831-1832 Osteology , arthrology 188 pages of text, 59 plates (402 images)
Volume 2, 1834 Myology (muscles, tendons, fasciae) 138 pages of text, 100 plates (219 illustrations)
Volume 3, 1844 Neuroanatomy 326 pages of text, 114 plates (368 illustrations)
Volume 4, 1835-1836 Angiology 158 pages of text, 98 plates (269 illustrations)
Volume 5, 1839 Planning technology 336 pages of text, 96 plates (249 illustrations)
Volume 6 and Volume 7, Supplement, 1839-1840 Surgical anatomy, operating theory 627 pages of text, 191 plates (1585 illustrations)
Volume 8, 1854 General and Philosophical Anatomy 336 pages of text, 67 plates (658 illustrations)


Medical staff, surgeons and taxidermists assisted Bourgery with dissections and the production of original anatomical specimens that were required as templates for drawings. His most important colleague was Ludwig Moritz Hirschfeld (1816–1876). Even Claude Bernard provided input and also resigned as editor of the second edition on.


Heart valves and fibrous cardiac connective tissue

Bourgery attached great importance to the quality of the illustrations, as they should be “drawn from nature”. Nicolas Henri Jacob was already established as a draftsman, later highly honored, mastered lithographic techniques and knew the medical-scientific subject well. He drew and lithographed 512 of 725 plates himself, 2196 illustrations of 3750. Other artists and students collaborated (Charlotte A. Hublier, Jean Baptiste Léveillé, Edmond Pochet and others). The naturalistic appearance and coloring, the consciously used ideal-typical model organism should increase the usefulness of the imaging. All picture panels were produced with the lithography (stone printing) invented by Alois Senefelder . The process enabled a much more precise drawing and gave a better haptic impression of the anatomical structures than is possible with a woodcut or copperplate engraving . The lithography initially only produced black and white images with gray gradations, which were then hand-colored with a brush or stencil. Only the second edition was printed in color using color lithography.


The first edition was published by the publisher CA Delaunay in Paris. From 1831 to 1840 the subscribers received a total of 70 deliveries, each consisting of eight plates and eight sheets of accompanying text. A bound black and white copy cost around 800 francs at the time, a color copy 1600 francs. The high price obviously prevented the work from spreading.

An English partial edition appeared from 1833 to 1837 and the second edition followed from 1866 to 1871. The monumental work by Bourgery and Jacob received the highest praise from critics and experts, was enthusiastically received and won awards. Although this work "had a stylistic effect on the iconography of human anatomy", by 1900 it was as good as forgotten.

Since the 1920s in Germany and from 1943 in the USA and again from 1967 to 1979 in Germany, illustrations from Bourgery's anatomy atlas have been an obligatory part of Fritz Kahn's popular science bestseller . Modern anatomical publications also increasingly refer to reference representations in Bourgery. In 2005 a facsimile reprint of the entire anatomy atlas (eight illustrated volumes) was published in one volume, with updated anatomical nomenclature.


Cutting a tendon to treat a contracture in the thigh
  • For his work as an assistant doctor in the clinic, Bourgery was awarded a prize from the Paris Medical School and a gold medal from the clinic administration (c. 1820).
  • Prix ​​Monthyon 1843 (with Jacob)
  • Knight's Cross of the Legion of Honor


  • “Since the technology of lithography now makes it possible to publish very extensive illustrated works without excessive costs, one would do the doctors a great service if one provided them with all the work that deals with anatomy. However, in order for such a work to offer the greatest possible benefit, the medical expertise presented in it must not only correspond to the current status, but also must be presented with all its areas of application. ... but above all, it is essential that the newly designed panels of such a work are drawn from nature, but nevertheless refer to the known illustrations among those published so far. This is the task that Monsieur Jacob and I set out to do. We will spare no effort to honorably bring our immense work to an end. ”Vol. 1, pp. 1-2
  • “At the beginning of all science, de Maistre said, there is a secret. To complete the sentence of this great thinker, one would actually have to say: At the beginning and at the end of all science there is a secret, or rather: Science is nothing but a secret ... A seemingly completely clear idea is actually only a glimmer of light between two abysses ... Vol. 3, p. 33
  • "Now that I am about to finish my life's work, all of which is available to me, and that what I have achieved comes close to what I set out to do - now the public may recognize that I did not fail with my project. ”Vol. 8, p. III



  • JM Bourgery, NH Jacob: Atlas of Human Anatomy and Surgery. The complete colored plates of 1831-1854. Jean-Marie Le Minor, Henri Sick: Atlas of Anatomy and Surgery by JM Bourgery and NH Jacob. A monumental work of the 19th century. In three languages ​​(f / e / d), facsimile reprint 726 hand-colored lithographs, large format. Taschen, Cologne 2005, ISBN 978-2-286-01268-7
  • Natalie J. Lauer: The draftsman's contract with medicine. Aesthetics and science in the Bourgery & Jacob picture atlas. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8260-5045-9
  • Reinhard Hildebrand: Bourgery and Jacob, Hirschfeld and Léveillé - on masterpieces of anatomical iconography from the heyday of lithography. In: Anatomischer Anzeiger Jena 158 (1985) 363-372
  • August Hirsch (Hrsg.): Biographical lexicon of the outstanding doctors of all times and peoples. Vol. 1, Munich 1962, p. 657
  • M. Prevost, Roman d'Amat (eds.): Dictionnaire de Biographie française. Vol. 31, Paris 1951, p. 1481
  • Archives Biographique Français 76, 78

Individual evidence

  1. "Since Stephan von Calcar's woodcuts for Vesal , nothing has been created in anatomical iconography that would be preferable to Jacobs' lithographed drawings." E.-J. Delécluze: Des travaux anatomiques de M. le Docteur Bourgery. Revue de Paris (Comptes rendus du Salon de 1832, J. des Débats) 17 (1840) 208-222, cited therein. Hildebrand 1985, p. 366
  2. "... not only the precision that meets the needs of science, what fascinates rather is a nature that is more expressive through art" A. Velpeau, Roux, Andral, Rayer, Magendie , Duméril, Flourens , Lallemand, Serres: Rapport sur le concours pour les prix de médecine et de chirurgie de l'année 1852. Comptes rendus hebd. Seance. Acad Sci. Paris 35 (1852) 896-901, cit. Hildebrand 1985, p. 367
  3. Holger G. Dietrich: Urological Anatomy In the picture: From the artistic-anatomical illustration to the first operation . Springer-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-540-20001-0 , p. 81.
  4. ^ Fritz Kahn: Das Leben des Menschen, Volume I – V, Stuttgart 1922–1931
  5. ^ Fritz Kahn: Man in Structure and Function, Vol. I – II, New York 1943
  6. Fritz Kahn: Knaur's book on the human body. Munich 1967