- If in the presence of obstructive jaundice the gall bladder is
palpable the underlying cause is unlikely to be gallstone.
- J Courvoisier (1843-1918) Professor of Surgery, Basel, born in Basel
where his father was a merchant and his mother was the daughter of an
English clergyman. His father developed tuberculosis and at the age of 7
he went with his parents to Malta to live with his maternal
grandparents. He became fluent in English. Just before entering
medical school he developed typhus and spent a year recovering from that
disorder. He spent some time at the University of Gottingen and then
returned to Basel to graduate in 1868. Shortly after he was assistant to
Professor Socien who was one of the first surgeons in Europe to sponsor
Lister's antiseptic techniques. He studied in London with Sir William
Fergusson and Sir Spencer Wells and then spent a year in Vienna with
Billroth and Czerny. He served in the Military Hospital in Karlsruthe
during the Franco-Prussian War and then returned to Basel where he
became surgeon in the small town of Riehen on the German-Swiss border.
For the next 30 years this was his main post, although he opened a
private clinic in Basel in 1883 which was very successful and in 1888
the University gave him the title of Professor of Surgery Extraordinary.
However, it was not until the death of his old master, Socien, in 1899
that he was given beds in the hospital in Basel and became Professor of
Surgery at the University of Basel. He was a pioneer in surgery of the
biliary tract area and popularised cholecystectomy as an operation as
well as being one of the first to remove stones from the common bile
duct. Generally regarded as a safe surgeon, he had the reputation for
handing over to others patients who had conditions which he considered
lay outside his experience. From the time he was a small boy he took a
great interest in butterflies and botany, and published over 21 papers
on entomology. He gave his collection to the Natural History Museum of
Basel and left his Herbarium to the Botanical Institute.