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Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2008 Apr 19;152(16):956-63.

[M.A. Mendes de Leon (1856-1924), a founding father of gynaecology].

[Article in Dutch]

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  • 1Universiteit van Amsterdam, Peppinghof 3, 1391 BA Abcoude.


M.A. Mendes de Leon (1856-1924) was appointed private lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics of the University of Amsterdam in 1884. He promoted gynaecology in the Netherlands as a separate speciality, partly because of the new surgical possibilities following the discoveries of anaesthesia and antisepsis, but also due to the prevailing belief that the physiology of reproduction qualified the physical and psychological disorders of women. In his private gynaecological clinic he devoted himself to the surgery of ovarian tumours, uterus myomatosus and genital prolapse, but also to the diagnosis and treatment of supposed inflammations of the cervix and endometrium as cause of psychological disorders. In this he followed the opinions of contemporary English gynaecologists. As he was not aware of physiological histology, he nearly always found signs of inflammation. He treated this with curettage and drastic caustics, sometimes after using a dilation knife (hysterotome) for the cervix. At the turn of the twentieth century Dutch gynaecologists such as Treub and Nijhoff began to cast doubt on such theories of "reflex neurosis", but Mendes de Leon persisted in his views. Nevertheless, he can still be considered one of the founding fathers of gynaecology in the Netherlands, partly because of his surgical skills, but also due to his study into the interaction between gynaecological and psychological problems.

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