Felix Plater

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Felix Plater

Felix Plater (or Platter) (October 28, 1536 – July 28, 1614) was a Swiss physician, professor in Basel, well known for his classification of psychiatric diseases, and was also the first to describe an intracranial tumour (a meningioma). He was born and died in Basel.

Felix Plater was the son of Lutheran humanist, schoolmaster and printer, Thomas Platter, and the half-brother of Thomas Platter the Younger. In 1552, and only fifteen years old, Plater travelled by pony from Basel to Montpellier to start a six-year course of study under Guillaume Rondelet. Once arrived he lodged in the house of Laurent Catalan, the town pharmacist, and a Maran or Christian Jew, occasionally sending packages of fruits and seeds to his father. His studies took place in an atmosphere of terror and religious persecution. Rondelet taught his students the technique of pressing, drying and mounting botanical specimens on paper, a process practised by his former mentor, Luca Ghini.

Returning to Basel in 1557, Plater soon establishes himself as a successful physician, and becomes professor of practical medicine at the university, amassing a famous collection of curiosities at his house, as well as an enormous library of pressed plant specimens.[1]

Plater's description of Dupuytren's disease in 1614 is explained with regard to his understanding of the anatomy. The current view that Plater believed the disease to be caused by dislocation and shortening of the flexor tendons is based upon misinterpretation of the original Latin text. With the help of his anatomical studies, Plater had proven that subcutaneous ligamentous extensions of the palmar aponeurosis and not the flexor tendons were responsible for Dupuytren's disease. Felix Plater realised more than one hundred and fifty years before Henry Cline, Astley Cooper, and Dupuytren, the palmar aponeurosis was the anatomical substrate of the disease.

In the view of historian David Wootton, developed in the book Bad Medicine, Platter was the first proponent of the Germ theory of disease.


  1. ^ "The Naming of Names" - Anna Pavord (Bloomsbury, 2005)
  • Belusa L, Selzer AM, Partecke BD (September 1995). "[Description of Dupuytren disease by the Basel physician and anatomist Felix Plater in 1614]". Handchirurgie, Mikrochirurgie, Plastische Chirurgie (in German). 27 (5): 272–5. PMID 7498844.