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Marie Colinet

Marie Colinet

Swiss midwife and surgeon
Marie Colinet
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Swiss midwife and surgeon
Was Midwife
From Switzerland
Gender female
Birth 1560, Geneva, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland
Death 1640 (aged 80 years)
The details


Marie Colinet (Fabry) (ca. 1560 - ca. 1640), a midwife and surgeon, introduced the use of heat for dilating and stimulating the uterus during labour, performed caesarian sections successfully, and the first to use a magnet to extract a piece of metal from a patient's eye.


Marie Colinet was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1560, the daughter of a Swiss printer. Her work spanned the late 16th and early 17th centuries. She was originally a midwife in Geneva. On July 25, 1587, at St. Gervais church in Geneva, she married a surgeon, Wilhelm Fabry (also William Fabry, Guilelmus Fabricius Hildanus, or Fabricius von Hilden, b. June 25, 1560, d. February 15, 1634, often called the "Father of German surgery"). Her husband taught her surgery, but by his own admission she excelled him. Documents of her whereabouts after the death of her husband have not yet been found. From 1602 to 1610, the Fabrys stationed in Payerne, CT. Vaud, after which they traveled through Switzerland, Holland and the Rhineland, finally in 1615, they settled in Bern, where both were recognized by the award of citizenship. She was the mother of eight children, only one of whom (Johannes, later a surgeon himself) outlived her.


By training, Colinet was a midwife-surgeon who perfected the techniques in Germany of Caesarean section delivery (which hadn't changed since the days of Julius Caesar). In addition, she assisted her husband in his surgical practice and took care of his patients while he was traveling. She did everything from minor surgery to C-sections. The professional highlight of her career came when she encountered a patient whose sight was being threatened by a nasty sliver of metal.


In 1624, after her husband had attempted unsuccessfully to extract metal from a patient's eye, she came up with the idea to use a magnet—a technique which worked then and still is in use today. She used heat to expand and stimulate the uterus in childbirth, performed Caesarian sections, and successfully removed eye splinters. In one especially difficult case of a man with two shattered ribs, she has to open his chest and wire together the fragments of bone. On reclosing the wound, she covered it with a dressing of oil of roses and a plaster of barley flows, powdered roses, and wild pomegranate flowers, mixed with cypress nuts and raw eggs. Then bandaged it with padded splints. After that, she regulated his diet and stayed with him for ten days. The man was well after four weeks. Her complex herbal plasters prevented infection and promoted healing. Her husband wrote a detailed description of the procedure (in his Centuriae), explicitly mentioning his wife as having invented it. However, it was he who was given credit for her discovery.


- The honorary Parisian citizenship, 1615
- The first to use a magnet to remove fragments of iron or steel from the eye

- Mentioned by Judy Chicago in her art work The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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