Opera Medica Universa - 1672

Praxis Medica cum Theoria (1671)


Praxis Medica cum Theoria (1671)



Lazare Rivière (1589-1655)

Lazare Rivière, a French Anatomist, was born in 1589 in Montpellier, France, where he completed his medical education in 1611. This was just a year before the great French surgeon Ambroise Paré died. In 1622, at age 33, he became head professor of pharmacology and surgery at the University of Montpellier. His fame as a clinician brought royal attention. Louis XIII, King of France (1601-1643) named him an advisor. His claim to fame was his anti-vomit (anti-emetic) agent containing coffee and lime. In French literature, it is called “L’anti-emetique de Rivière”.

Among his early work, he published in 1640 a six-volume Praxis Medica cum Theoria (Medical Practice and Theory) – in which he recommends clove and camphor oil for toothache. (Our collection includes a 1672 edition). Clove oil contained eugenol and was subsequently incorporated into zinc oxide eugenol, the temporary restoration material used in sensitive teeth. The professional literature indicates Rivière as the first to describe the use of clove/camphor oil for teeth, even though Johannes Hartmann (1568-1631), a German chemist in 1632, published the same recommendation in Praxis chymiatrica (p.138). In Praxis Medica cum Theoria, Rivière had some unusual recommendations for toothache:  instilling almond oil into the ear of the affected side. The section about camphor (oleum camphorae) and clove oil (oleum caryopyllorum) is reproduced here:

In vulgari usu habetur oleum caryophyllorum, quo frustulum gossippi intictum denti admovetur; et sierosus fuerit, cavo illius inseritur …. Oleum camphorae ad eundem usum mire est efficax. Vel in olei caryophyllorum (one drachm) dissolve camphorae…Translated: In common use, there is the oil of cloves, with which a piece of cloth dipped in the tooth is moved, and when it becomes saturated, it is inserted into its cavity ….. Camphor oil is surprisingly effective for the same use.

Rivière was an ardent supporter of William Harvey, and in his book, Observationum Medicorum (Medical Observations, 1646) (our collection contains a 1672 edition that includes three of his main works), he was one the earliest to describe an aortic valve lesion consistent with aortic endocarditis in today’s diagnosis. Rivière was a keen observer during a post-mortem of one of his patients

Editorial notes by Andrew I Spielman.

Digital Version