Pierre Joseph Desault, a French surgeon, born at Magny-Vernais, a village of Franche-Comte, in 1744, died in Paris, June 1, 1795. He commenced his education for the church in a Jesuit school, but exhibiting a strong inclination for surgery, he was permitted to acquire the rudiments of the art from the barber-surgeon of his native village. He was then sent to the military hospital at Belfort, where he remained three years, giving special attention to gunshot and sword wounds. While here he translated Borelli's treatise De Motu Anima-lium, adding notes and illustrations. In 1764 he went to Paris, and availed himself of the facilities for dissection with such success that he soon opened a very popular school of anatomy. In 1776 he became a member of the college of surgery. Thereafter he made rapid progress, becoming successively chief surgeon to the hospital of the college, consulting surgeon to that of St. Sulpice, chief surgeon to La Charite, and finally to the H6tel-Dieu, with the reputation of being the most skilful operator in France. In connection with the Hotel-Dieu he instituted a clinical class which attracted many students. The most important cases that came before the class were reported in a serial, entitled Journal de Ghirurgie, edited by the pupils.
In the revolution he was arrested while lecturing, May 28, 1793, and carried to the Luxembourg, from which he was liberated at the end of three days. On the establish-ment of the school of health he was appointed clinical professor for external diseases. While attending the dauphin, then a prisoner in the Temple, he was seized with illness, which almost immediately terminated in delirium and death. The rumor of the time asserted that he was poisoned because he refused to lend himself to the murder of his patient. An autopsy showing no trace of poison, his death was set down to ataxic fever. The republic pensioned his widow. He introduced numerous improvements in surgical instruments and their use, especially for the treatment of fractures and ligature of arteries. In conjunction with his friend Chopart, he wrote the Traite des maladies chirurgicales (2 vols. 8vo, 1780), which has been translated into English by Trumbull. His OEuvres chirurgicales were published by Bichat (3 vols. 8vo, 1798-'9).