Chicotot, Georges (French, 1868-1921)

The First Attempt of Dr. Chicotot to Cure Cancer with X Rays

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Dr. Georges Chicotot was one of the first radiologists—and quite a talented artist. Here, he documents his first attempt to treat breast cancer with X-rays. He wears an apron and a top hat, which might seem odd, but the Medical Press of 1932 stated that “all doctors of the time were recognizable in their laboratory by their top hat and white apron.” His patient’s dress and corset lie on the stool next to the bed; a wedding ring shows that she is married, and her age suggests that she might be a mother. Perhaps a worried family waits in another room. Although she is an attractive woman, the doctor focuses his full attention on his stop watch to time the X-ray exposure. In his other hand he holds an instrument that flames at the end to heat the vessel that holds the Crookes tube. A glass cylinder focuses the X-ray on the patient’s breast, while the transformer on the mantelpiece regulates the current. Before entering the medical field, Georges Chicotot was a graduate of Paris’s School of Fine Arts, where he won several medals for historical paintings. One of the reasons for his success as an artist was his fascination with anatomy, which he taught at the School of Practical Anatomy, where the students were both painters and doctors. Through this experience, Chicotot entered the School of Medicine, earning his medical degree in 1899. Receiving a rare externship, he ended up in the new field of radiology. His work on X-rays earned him a medal from the Academy of Medicine; at the same time his paintings at the annual Academy of Fine Arts exhibitions focused on medical themes that the journal The Medical Correspondent reported “attracted the attention of the general public which is fascinated by the subject of our art.” (quotes from Gerald Weissmann, Darwin’s Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination [Cambridge, MA: Percy Publishing, 1998], 220 and 221) Notes by Mariann Smith
Art of Medicine
History of Medicine
Musee de l'Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux, Paris