Fritz de Quervain

Fritz de Quervain (1868 – 1940) was a Swiss surgeon.

A true General surgeon who published his work prolifically, wrote a widely used major textbook on surgery and designed an innovative operating table and autoclave for sterilisation. Major interest in the epidemiology of many diseases and perhaps can be described as one of the fathers of modern clinical research.

Published over 300 papers, many of which were devoted to thyroid disease from the epidemiology of thyroid disease to technical procedures relating to thyroidectomy. Worked extensively in disease of the thyroid and defining subacute thyroiditis (De Quervain subacute struma). Evaluated cases of complete testicular feminization the commonest form of male pseudohermaphroditism. Introduced iodised table salt in the treatment of thyroid disease.

One of the earliest clinicians to appreciate that post operative pneumonia was often really a pulmonary infarct due to embolism. In 1894 He described the chronic tendonitis that bears his name (De Quervain disease)

  • Born May 4, 1868, Sion, Valais, Switzerland
  • 1892 – Qualified in medicine from the University of Bern
  • 1893-1894 – Surgical assistant to Emil Theodor Kocher at Inselspital – Universitätsspital Bern
  • 1895 – Surgical resident La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel
  • 1910 – Chair of surgery University of Basel
  • 1918 – Succeeded Kocher as professor of surgery at Inselspital – Universitätsspital Bern
  • 1920 – President of the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Chirurgie
  • 1938 – Retired
  • Died January 24, 1940 of acute pancreatitis
Medical Eponyms

De Quervain disease (1894)

De Quervain thyroiditis Subacute, non-bacterial inflammation of the thyroid gland, often after viral infection of respiratory tract. Self-limiting granulomatous inflammatory disorder, which is thought to be virally induced in genetically predisposed individuals. Characterized by thyroid pain and thyrotoxicosis, as well as by systemic symptoms like fever, hepatic cytolysis, and an elevated ESR. Often mistaken for an upper respiratory tract infection.


The term “de Quervain tenosynovitis” may be a misnomer. In fact, de Quervain credits Dr. Kocher with the first description of the disease and first surgical treatment. [PMID 9316729]

A similar tenosynovitis had been described previously by Tillaux (the “aïe” crepitant) and by Grais in 1893 as ‘wasp disease’.

Major Publications
  • de Quervain F. Spezielle Chirurgische Diagnostik für Studierende und Ärzte – 1910
  • de Quervain F. Clinical Surgical Diagnosis for students and practitioners – 1913 [English Archive text]
  • de Quervain F. Über eine Form von chronischer Tendovaginitis. Correspondenz-Blatt für Schweizer Aerzte, Basel, 1895, 25: 389-394.
  • de Quervain F. On a form of chronic tendovaginitis. [Translated article: Cor-Bl.f.schweiz. Aerzrte 1895:25:389-94]. J Hand Surg Br. 2005 Aug;30(4):388-91
  • de Quervain F. Über acute, nichteitrige Thyroiditis. Archiv für klinische Chirurgie, Berlin, 1902;67:706—14.
  • de Quervain F. Ein Fall von Pseudohermaphrodismus masculinus. Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschr. 1923;53:563.


  • Serpell J. Fritz de Quervain. In: Pasieka J, Lee J. (eds) Surgical Endocrinopathies. 2015: 49-51

Eponymous terms


the person behind the name

Dr Ronan McKenna, MB BCh BAO at National University of Ireland Galway. Living in Australia with  plans for a future in Emergency Medicine. A keen interest in Medical History, Wilderness Medicine and Sport.

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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