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Charles Etienne

Charles Etienne (1503-1564) was an early exponent of the science of anatomy in France.

Charles was a younger brother of the celebrated printers, and son to Henry, who Hellenized the family name by the classical appellation of Stephen (Stefanos). It is uncertain whether he taught publicly. But his tranquillity was disturbed, and his pursuits interrupted, by the oppressive persecutions in which their religious opinions involved the family; and Charles Etienne drew the last breath of a miserable life in a dungeon in 1564. Etienne, though from a family whose classical taste was their principal glory, did not betray the same servile imitation of the Galenian anatomy as his contemporary, Jacques Dubois. He appears to have been the first to detect valves in the orifice of the hepatic veins. He was ignorant, however, of the researches of the Italian anatomists; and his description of the brain is inferior to that given sixty years before by Achillini. His comparison of the cerebral cavities to the human ear has persuaded F. Portal that he knew the inferior cornua, the hippocampus and its prolongations; but this is no reason for giving him that honour to the detriment of the reputation of Achillini, to whom, so far as historical testimony goes, the first knowledge of this fact is due. The researches of Etienne into the structure of the nervous system are, however, neither useless nor inglorious; and the circumstance of demonstrating a canal through the entire length of the spinal cord, which had neither been suspected by contemporaries nor noticed by successors till J. B. Senac (1693-1770) made it known, is sufficient to place him high in the rank of anatomical discoverers.

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