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Guichard Duvernay, pioneer of Otology (1648-1730)

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 September 2018

Guichard Joseph Du Verney (5 August 1648 – 10 September 1730) was a pioneer of otology.  He was born in Feurs, in the south of France, and studied at Avignon as a doctor befoire moving to Paris.  He became Court Anatomist – a post created for him (Hawkins, p.9).  As Hawkins says, “Duverney’s treatise is remarkable not only for its anatomical presentations, but also for its author’s thoughts on the physiology and pathology of the ear” (ibid).  Neil Weir and Albert Mudry say that it was also significant that it was published in French rather than Latin.  He was also, they continue, the first to show that the boney external meatus developed from the tympanic ring; that the Eusachian tube was a channel wherby the air in the tympanum was renewed; he explained bone conduction; he was the first to use the term boney labyrinth for the whole inner ear.  He produced his brilliant drawings without the aid of a microscope (Weir & Mudry, 2013 p.38-9).

That his book was translated to English over fifty years after his death, says a lot about how valuable it was considered.  We have copies of both the original, and the translation.

Le Vestibule est une cavité presque ronde, creusée dans I’os pierreux et d’environ une ligne et demie de diamètre. II est scitué derrière la fenestre ovale, et revestu par dedans d’une membrane parsemée de plusieurs vaisseaux : on y remarque neuf ouvertures dont il y en a une de laquelle il a déja esté parlé, sçavoir la fenestre ovale qui donne entrée de la quaisse du tambour dans le vestibule ; les huit autres lont dans la cavité de ce vestibule. La première mene dans la rampe superieure du limaçon ; il y en a’cinq qui donnent entrée dans les trois canaux demi-circulaires ; et les deux dernieres laissent passer deux branches de la portion molle du nerf auditif.

Je donneray des noms aux conduits demi – circulaires pour les distinguer, et je les nommeray par rapport à leur situation.  J’appelle le premier Supérieur parce; qu’il embrasse la partie superieure de la voute du vestibule ; le sécond Inferieur, parce qu’il entoure partie inferieure ; et le troisième qui est plus en dehors et sîtué entre les deux autres seranommé le Mitoyen. (1683, p.32-3)

The Vestibulum is a Cavity almost round, formed out of the Os Petrosum, and about a Line and a half in diameter. It is situated behind the Fenestre Ovalis, and covered on the Inside by a Membrane, furnished with a great many Vessels.  There are nine Foramina in it, of which one has been already described, viz. the Fenestre Ovalis, which forms an Entrance from the Tympanum into the Vestibulum; the other eight are in the Cavity of the Vestibulum: The first leading into the upper Range or Scala of the Coclea; there are five more which afford Entrance to the three Semi-circular Canals; and the two last through which two Branches of the Portio Mollis of the Auditory nerve pass.

I shall give Names to the  three Canales Semicirculres to distinguish them, and I shall take those Names from their situation: The first  I call the Superior, because it takes up the upper Part of the Arch of the Vestibulum; the second Inferior, because it surrounds lower Part; and the third, which is placed more towards the Outside, and is situated betwixt the other two, Medius. (1737, p.32)

Hawkins says that Du Verney “was a true forerunner of Helmholtz, putting forward a resonance theory before its time” (Hawkins, p.9).  It seems that he also dissected an elephant, in front of King Louis XIV in 1681.  The book is full of beautiful plates, some reproduced here.  I showed it to a UCLH otologist, and he was amazed by their quality.  Unfortunately no portrait of him appears to survive.

Du Verney, Traité de l’organe de l’ouie, contenant la structure, les usages & les maladies de toutes les parties de l’oreille. A Paris, : chez Estienne Michallet, ruë S. Jacques à l’image S. Paul. 1683

Traité de l’organe de l’ouie… on Google Books

Du Verney, A treatise of the organ of hearing: : containing the structure, the uses, and the diseases of all the parts of the ear./ Translated from the French of the late Monsieur Du Verney, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Counsellor Physician in Ordinary to the late King of France, and Professor of Anatomy and Surgery in the Royal Physick-Garden at Paris. Translated by John Marshall. 1737

Desai, Sapan S & Dua, Anahita, History of Research in the Vestibular System: A 400-Year-Old Story.  Anatomy &  Physiology 2014, 4:2 DOI: 10.4172/2161-0940.1000138

Hawkins, Joseph E., Auditory Physiological History: A Surface View. Chapter 1, p.1-28, in  Santos-Sacchi, Joseph R., Physiology of the Ear. 2001

Weir, N. and Mudry, A., Otorhinolaryngology: an illustrated history, 2013