Nicolas Andry  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (1658 – 13 May 1742) was a French physician and writer. He played a significant role in the early history of both parasitology and orthopedics, the name for which is taken from Andry's book Orthopédie.


Andry published his introduction to orthopedics in 1741 under the title Orthopédie, then a neologism. It was translated into English in 1743 as Orthopædia. Aimed more at parents than physicians, the book presents a theory of human anatomy, skeletal structure, and growth, along with instructions for correcting deformity. Andry explains in the book that he formed its title "of two Greek Words, viz. Orthos, which signifies straight, free from deformity, and Pais, a Child. Out of these two words I have compounded that of Orthopædia, to express in one Term the Design I Propose, which is to teach the different Methods of preventing and correction of Deformities of Children."

Though the book was read and cited extensively in the period, its main lasting influence in medicine has been its title, which became the name of the field devoted to skeletal and related injuries and ailments (later modified to "orthopædics" and "orthopaedics" or, in American spelling, "orthopedics"). Outside of medicine, the principal impact of the book derives from the engraving on the frontispiece, which shows a straight stake tied to a crooked sapling, a metaphor for the correction of deformities in children. The engraving captured the attention of contemporary readers; it is referred to, for example, in George Colman's 1787 comic opera Inkle and Yarico.

Andry's frontispiece has played a significant role in the cultural studies of eighteenth-century medicine. It is included, without comment, as the last in a series of ten eighteenth- and nineteenth-century illustrations in Michel Foucault's influential study of the history of correction, Discipline and Punish. Scholar Paolo Palladino has explained Foucault's use of the image as showing that "practices as disparate as orthopedics and horticulture were increasingly predicated on operative principles that focused on the manipulation of these different life forms' presumed common material substance. Moreover, the image raises questions of agency, since it is unclear who exactly bound the tree: no human or divine form is visible anywhere in the background; the image therefore accorded with Foucault's understanding that the operation of these principles was invisible and pervasive."

A simplified version of Andry's illustration continues to serve as the international symbol for orthopedics, used by a number of different institutions in multiple countries.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nicolas Andry" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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