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Thorax 34:575-581 doi:10.1136/thx.34.5.575
  • Research Article

Pierre Adolphe Piorry (1794-1879): pioneer of percussion and pleximetry.

Abstract

Piorry was born in Poitiers on 31 December 1794. As a medical student he served in the Napoleonic war in Spain. His teachers in medicine included Corvisart, Bayle, Broussais, and Magendie; he qualified in 1816 with an MD thesis: "On the danger of reading medical text books by the laity"! Laënnec's invention of the stethoscope (1816) and De l' Auscultation Médiate (1819) inspired Piorry to make an analogous contribution to the technique of percussion (which had been originally described by Auenbrugger in his Inventum Novum in 1761 and translated from the Latin into French by Corvisart in 1808). This led to Piorry's invention in 1826 of the pleximeter (le plessimétre) to help outline the internal organs (l'organographisme), which he described inDe la Percussion Médiate (1828). Piorry became renowned as a professor of medicine in many of the great Parisian hospitals (Charité, Pitié, and Hôtel Dieux). In 1832 he was appointed to L'Hospice de la Salpétrière, where he held a famous course of clinical lectures. He wrote prolificly on many aspects of medicine and published more than twenty books. He was, in addition, a poet of some distinction, and wrote a remarkable long poem Dieu, L'Ame et la Nature (1853). Piorry held his neologisms-for example, toxin, toxaemia, septicaemia, etc.-are still in use. This, together with the mixed reception that his advocacy of pleximetry received from his medical contemporaries, made him a controversial figure. He died on 29 May 1879.


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