Maygrier, Jacques Pierre (French, 1771-1835)

Gynecological-Obstetrical Exam, from Midwifery Illustrated

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Jacques Pierre Maygrier (1771-1835) was considered one of the best midwives in the nineteenth century. He began his medical career at sixteen, when he joined the French navy and trained in surgery. After serving for ten years, he moved to Paris to study medicine, after which he built up a large practice in obstetrics. Since the Faculty of Medicine did not open its obstetrical clinic until 1840, the private instruction Maygrier offered helped to develop modern French obstetrical practice. Once the clinic did open, Maygrier served as professor of childbirth. His comprehensive books include descriptions of natural childbirth, cesarean section, how to use forceps, pelvic deformities, and lactation. Midwifery Illustrated, first published in 1822, was considered the foremost text of its kind in the nineteenth century. In the late 1820s and 1830s the book was translated into Spanish, Italian, English, Dutch, and German. The extremely popular English version went through six editions in the United States. In this image, the doctor is determining the advancement of a pregnancy using the technique then known as “touching the female.” At this time male physicians were competing with midwives and faced a significant disadvantage. Although it was considered appropriate for doctors to touch patients, social decency prevented them from looking. Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Physician-Patient Relations