Hippolyte Morestin (1869–1919)


Department of Plastic Surgery, University Hospital Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands

Hippolyte Morestin was born on 1 September 1869 in the town of Basse-Pointe on the small island of Martinique which lies north of St. Lucia and Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean. It was here on the 8 May 1902 at 8 o’clock in the morning that the Mount Pelee volcano, which had lain dormant for some years, erupted. Ten days before the eruption, many inhabitants had left the city due to some rumblings and clouds of smoke emitted from the volcano. Within 1 min following the eruption, the neighbouring city of Saint Pierre was completely engulfed in a cloud of ash, steam and dust which reached a temperature of 1075° centigrade. All but two of the remaining 30,000 inhabitants were killed, and their buildings and belongings totally destroyed. Amongst the victims of the disaster was a well-to-do and highly respected surgeon, Dr. Charles Amédée Morestin, along with 21 of his relatives. Fortunately, one of his sons Hippolyte Morestin and his brother Amédée had both been sent to France to study. Their father had also studied and worked in France where he was a prosector of anatomy and an ancient intern in Besancon. In addition, he presented his doctoral thesis to the Faculty of Medicine of Paris in 1862.
The circumstances surrounding Hippolyte’s departure were not altogether pleasant for he had been expelled from the Seminary College of Saint Pierre owing to his very poor academic performance and extremely difficult personality. Comments made by his teachers include words such as naughty, insubordinate, rebellious, quarrelsome and lazy, scarcely those one would associate with someone destined for such a brilliant career. His father had then dispatched him to Paris to undertake more disciplined schooling. Once this was completed, he apparently celebrated by promptly burning all his papers despite having obtained his baccalaureate with ease.
His first intention was to become a naval officer, and despite a longing for his distant family and early island life beside the ocean, his poor physique and fragile personality made a seafaring career impossible, and he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother to study medicine. He passed his examinations without difficulty and was appointed intern of Hospitals of Paris in 1890 at the age of 21.
In 1904, he became a Surgery Associate and, in 1905, an honorary member of the Society of Anatomy. There followed many communications to the anatomy and surgery societies, and he was elected to full membership on 22 May 1907. He also became a member of the Societies of Dermatology and Syphiligraphy to which he contributed many reviews in Paris and elsewhere in France.
From 1905, he was very busy as a surgeon in the Saint Antoine Hospital, the Hospital Tenon from 1911 and finally the Hospital Saint Louis from 1915 where he became the head of the ENT department. Now at the age of 36, he had become highly respected and began to attract universal interest. He had already operated at the International Congress of Surgery in New York in 1914 and from now on was visited by many foreign colleagues who had come to Paris.
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Mar 27, 2016 | Posted by in General Surgery | Comments Off on Hippolyte Morestin (1869–1919)

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