History of sports medicine - 1846-1850


In Sweden, the term 'physiotherapy' appeared for the first time in 1847 on the initiative of Swedish Professor Carl August Georgii (1808-1881), a pupil of Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839), to describe a series of gymnastics exercises for therapeutic purposes, but at that moment that went unnoticed in the medical world. That same year he moved to Paris and in 1849 he lived in London where he established a physiotherapy practice. In 1877 he returned to Sweden where he continued his physiotherapy activities. In 1847 he published 'Kinésithérapie ou traitment des maladies par le mouvement selon la méthode de Ling'.


The word 'Heilgymnastik' was first used by the Prussian officer Hugo Rothstein (1810-1865) as the title for the third part of his comprehensive work on Ling and his gymnastics. For Rothstein the 'Heilgymnastik' is the branch of the whole gymnastics, with which it is learned to restore the disturbed organic balance by means of gymnastic influences and thus heal the individual concerned from his illness.


The first development of medical and orthopedic gymnastics took place under the pressure of gymnasts such as Frenchman Alexandre Laisne Napoleon (1811-1896). This gymnastic teacher at the Ecole Polytechnique and at the Lycee Louis le Grand and director of the Parisian high lyceums was commissioned by the General Council of Hospitals in 1847 to give gymnastics classes at the 'Hôpital des Enfants Malades'. After a trial period of four months with weekly three one hour sessions for children with glandular disorders, the expected results were exceeded and the physicians confirmed the effectiveness of the method. The experiment was successfully repeated in other diseases in a combination of gymnastics, massage and frictions, eg. in nervous disorders such as chorea. Laisne was appointed director of the gymnasium of the 'Hôpital des Enfants Malades', with a salary of two thousand French francs. Children with nervous diseases from outside the hospital were also admitted to the gymnastics exercises. Between 1854 and 1862, 549,516 sessions were given, of which 10,390 for external patients.


The research of French psychiatrist Emile Blanche (1796-1852) (photo) and Joseph Bouvier (1883-1978), department head and founder of medical orthopedics, clarified the therapeutic effect of muscle exercises in neuroses and provided Laisne with a clientele for treatments.

However, Laisne also had opponents, the role of the massage was minimized by the pioneer of Pediatrics Joseph Marie Parrot (1829-1883). He was convinced that the gymnastic exercises were only a secondary means.


In 1847, French pioneer of the bodybuilding Hippolyte Triat (1812-1881) started a huge sports center in Paris, where the bourgeoisie, the aristocrats and lively young people came to do fitness.

In 1840 he had already done that in Brussels. After he sold the gym, he opened a new one of 40 meters long, 21 meters wide and 10 meters high at Paris Avenue Montaigne. There was also a school especially for women. His new method and scientific gymnastics attracted thousands of men and women, even Napoleon III (1808-1876) regularly maintained his condition. In 1855 the gymnastics hall was expropriated for the great works of urban architect Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891) and Triat moved to a smaller but equally beautiful and well-equipped interior in the rue François 1er. In April 1871 he was confined for a while because he had lent his room for meetings and for his appointment as director of gymnastic exercises of the city of Paris. A few months later he was released and he started a new gym in the rue du Bouloi. Triat is considered the founder of weightlifting.


In natural medicine, natural resources were used for the recovery and maintenance of health. The term naturopathy was devised in 1848 by German physician Lorenz Gleich (1798-1865).
The five pillars of classical naturopathy are:

  • Physical measures in the form of hydrotherapy (hot and cold water applications according to Kneipp), balneotherapy (bath therapy), light therapy, etc.
  • Movement therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Disciplinary therapy
  • Phytotherapy (herbal medicine)


French physicist Henri Regnault (1810-1878) studied the compressibility and expansion of liquids, as well as the density and specific heat capacity of gases. The 'Law of Regnault' mentioned to him expresses that at a constant volume there is a linear relationship between pressure and absolute temperature. As a token of appreciation, he is one of the 72 French people whose name is engraved on the Eiffel Tower.

Together with French chemist Jules Reiset (1818-1896) he experimented on rabbits, dogs and birds, which were placed under an airtight glass bell immersed in a water bath, of which the temperature could be checked. The CO2 produced was removed via a potassium hydroxide solution with a pump that constantly pumped air into and out of the chamber, allowing the carbonate formed to be determined. The device worked as a closed system and was actually the prototype on which many of the current devices are based. Besides the respiratory exchange data, the results of Regnault and Reiset also provided the insight that the metabolism did not result in the formation of free nitrogen, because if so, the protein metabolism from the nitrogen secretion in urine and faeces could be measured. The results, however, were quite irregular and it took 57 years before Danish Professor August Krogh (1874-1949) could prove that this insight was correct. For the first time in history, scientists combined and reported physical and chemical concepts based on the 'first law of thermodynamics of Carnot', the 'law of mechanical heat of Joule' and the 'law of Mayer Helmholtz and Singer on preservation of energy'. With their 'eudiometer' Regnault and Reiset measured at constant temperature the heat produced by small animals within the clock and the volume of oxygen consumed and CO2 produced.

The closed circuit respiratory calorimeter of Henri Regnault (1810-1878). In the center one can see a water jacket with a dog. The water jacket has thermometers that measure the water temperature caused by the body heat of the dog. The oxygen supply was done on the bank on the left. Oxygen was included in the system under a certain pressure and the manometers at the top maintained that pressure. To the right are a series of burettes with potassium hydroxide for the carbon dioxide absorption and recirculation.

Henri Regnault (1810-1878) and Jules Reiset (1818-1896) confirmed the remarkable results of their compatriot Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) from 1790:

"Les recherches modernes ont confirmés ces vues profondes de l'illustre savant."


Czechoslovak Professor Physiology Jan Evangelista Purkyné (1787-1869) suggested the idea that body training had beneficial effects on the human body. He is also known for his discovery in 1839 of the Purkinje fibers, the fibrous tissue that conducts electrical impulses from the atrioventricular node to all parts of the ventricles of the heart.


Louis Seutin (1793-1862) was from 1831 chief physician of the Belgian army, senator from 1853 to 1862 and was crowned baron by King Leopold I (1790-1865). He developed a process of fracture consolidation, which he called the 'immoveable amovo method'. This method was as effective as the traditional in the field of bone recovery, but allowed better access to the wounds, which prevented ankylosis.


French orthopedic surgeon Charles Gabriel Pravaz (1791-1853) reduced dislocations of the hip with self-invented carts and extension devices. He is also the inventor of the hollow needle.



The brothers George Herbert Taylor (1821-1896) and Charles-Fayette Taylor (1827-1899) introduced the therapeutic massage in the United States, which they had met during a journey in Sweden with Per Hendrik Ling (1776-1839). For the mechanical massage, George Herbert invented devices for chest expanding, pelvis contents lifting, abdomen kneading and the transfer of motor energy.