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July 15, 1968


JAMA. 1968;205(3):175-177. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140290067022

Pierre-Fidèle Bretonneau, physician of Tours, believed to have been the first to identify specific features of diphtheria and typhoid fever, completed a successful tracheotomy in a child with diphtheritic croup nearly a century and a half ago, and advanced the doctrine of specificity of disease before the general acknowledgement of the germ theory of infectious maladies. Bretonneau was born at St. Georges-sur-Cher into a family that claimed 15 practitioners of the healing arts in nine generations.1 Although he did not learn to read until he was nine years of age, he acquired from his father a taste for natural history and medicine. Selecting the latter for a career, Pierre began the study of medicine at the age of 17 at the École de Santé in Paris, where his fellow students included Dupuytren and Bayle.

Before Bretonneau had completed three years of study, ill health and a prolonged convalescence at