Here is just a little information on some of the people who have guided the history of Orthopaedics


Nicholas Andry was a professor of medicine and dean of the faculty of physics at the University of Paris. In 1741, at the age of 81, he published a book called Orthopaedia: or the Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children. In this book, he presents the word “orthopaedic,” which derives from the Greek words for “straight” and “child.” His interest in postural defects has led to the famous illustration that has become the symbol of orthopaedics: the Tree of Andry. The iconic image below may appear familiar to ONAWA menbers.

Tree of Andry


Dame Agnes Hunt, from Shropshire, England, is considered by most to be the first orthopaedic nurse. Born in Baschurch, she suffered from osteomyelitis as a child, which left her disabled. Despite this, she trained as a nurse and eventually opened her own convalescent home for disabled children. After the outbreak of World War I, wounded soldiers were sent to Baschurch, and many disabled people were treated by this special orthopaedic nurse. Her memorial reads: “Reared in suffering thou shalt know how to solace others’ woe. The reward of pain doth lie in the gift of sympathy.”

Percival Pott was from London and worked in St. Barthomew’s Hospital, where he received the diploma of the Barber-Surgeon’s company in 1763. He was the first to thoroughly describe a specific type of ankle fracture, which is now known as a Pott’s fracture. In 1756, he experienced a fracture of his own: an oblique open fracture of the lower third of his tibia, acquired after falling from his horse. He refused to be moved until he had purchased a door to be carried on, as he believed that the jolting of his carriage would have exacerbated the injury. Immediate amputation was usually conducted on such injuries, but at the last moment amputation was stopped and the limb was saved. His most famous written work is on paraplegia associated with spinal tuberculosis, where, he stressed, the condition was not related to spinal cord compression but associated with disorders of the lungs.

Giovanni Battista Monteggia was a Milanese pathologist who acquired syphilis by cutting himself while performing an autopsy. He later became a surgeon and professor in Milan. He is remembered for his description in 1814 of the fracturethat bears his name-- Monteggia’s fracture (proximal ulna fracture with radial head dislocation)

Abraham Colles was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, of humble origins. He became a professor of surgery at the College of Surgeons in Dublin at the age of 29. He was the first surgeon to ligate the subclavian artery, however, he is best remembered for his description of Colles’ fracture in 1814 (distal radius fracture).

James Syme was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He introduced conservative alternatives to the major amputations that were being done at the time. In 1831, he released a booklet detailing cases where joint excision could be used instead of amputation for grossly diseased and/or injured joints (such as in tuberculosis). In 1841, Syme described a distal amputation at the ankle. This amputation bears his name, as it replaced a portion of below-knee amputation, which was standard practice at that time.

John Rhea Barton was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He studied under Philip Syng Physick, the “Father of American Surgery” at the Pennsylvania Hospital. It was said that Barton was ambidextrous and that once he had positioned himself in the theatre he did not move. In 1826, he performed a subtrochanteric osteotomy of the femur for a severe flexion-adduction deformity of the hip. He is best known for his innovative corrective osteotomies for ankylosed joints.

Antonius Mathysen was a Dutch military surgeon. In 1851, he invented the Plaster of Paris bandage, which was to become so important to orthopaedic practice. To this day, a Plaster of Paris cast is used frequently to immobilize fractures.

Sir James Paget was a graduate of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. In 1877, he gave the first description of what he called “osteitis deformans,” now commonly called Paget’s disease. He described the increased incidence of osteosarcoma, increased head size and other deformities associated with this coniditon.

Richard Von Volkman was from Halle, Germany. He was the first in Germany to institute Lister’s antiseptic methods. In 1881, he published his famous paper on ischemic muscular paralyses and contractures, in which he attributed the cause of the contractures to direct changes in the muscles produced by arterial occlusion. These contractures are now known as Volkman’s ischemic contractures. It is interesting to note that, in addition to his important work in orthopaedics, he wrote popular poems and fairy stories and also founded a surgical journal.