Louis, Pierre Charles Alexandre
LOUIS, PIERRE CHARLES ALEXANDRE
Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis (1787–1872) was a French physician who graduated from the Sorbonne in 1813. He spent several years in Russia, and when he returned to Paris, he worked at l'Hôpital Charité, where he began to collect and numerically analyze information about patients and the treatments they received. His numerical method was quite new to medical practice—no one had ever before counted cases, examined the pathological lesions they had, and classified the outcome of the treatments in such detail. Louis published the results of his studies in a series of monographs, beginning with the one that made him famous, Récherches Anatomico-Pathologiques sur la Phthisie (1825). (The first English translation,
Louis's statistical analysis of a series of cases of typhoid included evidence enabling him to distinguish it from typhus, and in fact he gave typhoid its name. In 1835, he wrote a scathing polemic on the outcome of bloodletting as a way to treat diseases (Récherches sur les Effets de la Saignée), which conclusively proved that far from benefitting patients, this widely used and fashionable procedure harmed, and sometimes even killed them. Aspiring medical scientists who were skeptical about prevailing standards of care and had an interest in Louis's numerical approach, from other countries as well as France, sought him out as a mentor. Among his pupils were William Farr, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Lemuel Shattuck. Louis founded the Medecine d'Observation in Paris, and he is recognized as the founding father of modern medical statistics.
JOHN M. LAST
(SEE ALSO: Statistics for Public Health)