Remembering Past Greats: Francois Mauriceau

Author Information

Prasad M
(Assistant Professor. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Seth G S Medical College and K E M Hospital, Mumbai, India.)

This revolutionary French obstetrician is most commonly known for the maneuver which bears his name, though in combination with two others. He lived between 1637 and 1709.
He was the first trained French surgeon to take up obstetrics full time, and had a large private practice. He is remembered for writing an extensive treatise on obstetrics and midwifery, which had been translated to many languages.  The highlight of this book was the use of illustrations, which were a novelty during that era. It includes a self-portrait, emphasizing his artistic capabilities.  Upon translation of this book to English, it is believed that the owner of the secret of obstetric forceps, Chamberlen, paid him a visit. They are believed to have collaborated in some modifications and improvements of the then-available instruments. 
The personal contexts which led him to a passionate obstetric career were unique. His mother had contracted small pox when she was pregnant with him. His elder brother died of the disease. This made him research a little more into infective disorders during pregnancy.
His own sister died due to severe antepartum hemorrhage. Though he had not completed his training by that time, due to reluctance of the attending doctors to do anything aggressive, he himself is believed to have performed an internal version maneuver, which expedited the delivery. The passing away of his sister due to obstetric problems appears to have cemented his choice of being an obstetrician.
His temperamental nature, including angry outbursts on colleagues appeared to have gained him disrepute during his practicing days.
One of the important changes that got established due to his treatise was the change in the birthing position. Prior to his time, majority of the obstetricians were recommending an upright position on a “birthing stool”. He gave his positive experience of using the birthing bed, and strongly advocated the simple supine position, giving comfort to the laboring woman and allowing easy examination by the treating doctors. He appeared to have been inspired by the olden Greek teachings of Aristotle and Hippocrates.
His later studies included descriptions of the human pelvis, and he was one of the first to describe the difference between the male and female pelvis. He is also believed to be one of the first to study fetal circulation in detail. The first scientific description of craniotomy for a dead fetus is attributed to him.
It is no doubt that the memory of this passionate 17th century obstetrician inspires each one of us to be more committed to this artful profession of obstetrics.

  1. Dunn PM. Francois Mauriceau (1637-1709) and maternal posture for parturition. Arch Dis Child. 1991 Jan;66(1 Spec No):78-9.
  2. Karamanou M, Creatsas G, Demetriou T, Androutsos G. Practising obstetrics in the 17th century: Fran├žois Mauriceau (1637-1709). J Obstet Gynaecol. 2013 Jan;33(1):20-3.
  3. Biographies. In O’Dowd MJ, Philipp EE, editors. The History of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1st ed. Lancs: Parthenon Publishing Group 2000; pp. 636-7.


Prasad M. Remembering Past Greats: Francois Mauriceau. JPGO 2018. Volume 5 No.8. Available from: