Xavier Bichat

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Portrait of Xavier Bichat

Marie François Xavier Bichat (born November 11 or 14, 1771 in Thoirette , † July 22, 1802 in Paris ) was a French anatomist , physiologist and surgeon. He is considered the founder of histology and one of the founders of pathology . Together with Philippe Pinel, he is one of the leading figures of the Paris School of Clinical Medicine.


François Xavier Bichat was born the son of the doctor and mayor Jean Baptiste Bichat (1746–1812) and his wife Jeanne Rose Bichard (1741–1809). His siblings were Claude Joseph François Régis (1773–1774), Pierre Jean Baptiste César (* 1776), M. Rose Bichat (1778–1809). He studied mathematics and later medicine in Montpellier . From 1791 to 1793 Bichat studied under the leadership of the chief surgeon Marc-Antoine Petit (1766-1811) at the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyon surgery and anatomy.

The French Revolution forced him to flee Lyon and found himself in Paris in 1793 . There he became a student of Pierre-Joseph Desault , who was so impressed by Bichat's genius that he accepted him into his house. Bichat worked for two years for Desault, who also entrusted him with the management of the Journal de Chirurgie , while continuing his own research in anatomy and physiology.

Bichat is credited with the first use of the term brain death . He differentiated, on the one hand, the death of individual organs and, on the other hand, made important observations based on his decapitation experiments. Considerations that he put down in the Recherches physiologiques from 1800.

In 1796, Bichat founded the Sociéte Médicale d'Émulation de Paris , a scientific association of progressive doctors. In 1797 he began to hold private courses, demonstrations, and lectures in anatomy, physiology, and surgery. A hemorrhage in 1798 forced him to stop working for some time. From 1800 Bichat worked as a doctor at the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris .

Bichat probably died in 1802 as a result of advanced pulmonary tuberculosis . The surgeon Philibert-Joseph Roux was an important student, but also a close friend until death (see also the painting by Louis Hersent (1777–1860). Xavier Bichat was buried in the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery (Division 8).

Grave on Père Lachaise


Bichat sought the cause of diseases in body tissues at a time when humoral pathology , which viewed diseases as the effect of a harmful mixture of body fluids, was still established. His tissue pathology had a great influence in French medicine. His questions were taken over by contemporary physicians, anatomists and physiologists, such as Philibert-Joseph Roux , Pierre-Augustin Béclard and Anthelme Richerand and included in their own research work.

By the time he died, Bichat had performed around 600 autopsies . During this work he found the typical structure: tissue , organ and organ system . Despite the fact that he worked without a microscope , he discovered 21 different types of tissue in the human body and that diseases attack the tissues of the organs rather than the entire organ.

Bichat expanded the organ pathology of Giovanni Battista Morgagni and laid the foundation for Rudolf Virchow's later cellular pathology .

Structures named after Bichat

  • Bichat band
  • Bichat fat plug
  • Bichat fissure
  • Bichat Canal
  • Bichat membrane


  • Traité des membranes en général, et de diverse membranes en particulier
  • Anatomy générale appliquée à la physiologie et à la médecine. Brosson et Gabon, Paris 1802
  • Research physiologiques sur la vie et la mort. Paris 1800.
  • Traité d'anatomie descriptive. Paris 1801-1803.



Web links

Commons : Xavier Bichat  - album with pictures

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang U. Eckart : History of Medicine , 6th edition. Springer Medizin Verlag 2009, Pariser Klinische Schule pp. 193–195; History of Medicine 2009 History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine , 7th edition. Springer textbook Berlin, Heidelberg, pp. 175–178. History, theory and ethics of medicine 2013
  2. ^ Wolfgang U. Eckart and Christoph Gradmann: Ärztelexikon. From antiquity to the present , 1st edition 1995 CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung Munich, 2nd edition 2001, 3rd edition 2006, Springer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin, New York, biography Xavier Bichat written by Cay-Rüdiger Prüll. Medical glossary 2006
  3. Wolfgang U. Eckart : Illustrated history of medicine. From the French Revolution to the Present , Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Issue 1 + 2 2011, on the Paris Clinical School and Xavier Bichat pp. 39–43. Illustrated History of Medicine 2011
  4. ^ John G. Simmons: Doctors and Discoveries: Lives That Created Today's Medicine. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2002) ISBN 978-0-618-15276-6 p. 58
  5. ^ Family genealogy and biography
  6. Dissertation Bertels, A .: The brain death of humans - medical and ethical aspects . (2002)
  7. ^ Heinz Otremba: Rudolf Virchow. Founder of cellular pathology. A documentation. Echter-Verlag, Würzburg 1991, p. 22.
  8. Stahnisch, Frank Walter: The functional concept and its methodological role in the research program of the Experimental physiologist François Magendie (1783-1855) (PDF, 3.6 MB)
  9. Frank Stahnisch: Ideas in Action. The concept of function and its methodological role in the research program of the experimental physiologist François Magendie (1783–1855) . Lit., Münster / Hamburg / London 2003, ISBN 3-8258-6380-8 , pp. 61-90 PDF; 3.6 MB