Category Archives: Orthopaedic Art

Nicholas Andry’s Symbolic Tree

by Douglas W. Kiburz, MD

Nicholas Andry    Lyon 1658 – Paris 1742

Nicholas Andry holds an important place in the history of orthopaedics and medicine as it was Andry who first used the word “orthopaedics” in a book published in 1741.  Within the text he illustrated the “crooked tree” which has become the symbol for many orthopaedic organizations around the world.  Although many related agencies have taken to modifying or customizing the tree, the essential design remains.

Andry was born in Lyon in 1658 and started his studies in theology but was drawn to the field of medicine.  In 1697 he defended his thesis:  The Relationship in the Management of Diseases Between the Happiness of the Doctor and the Obedience of the Patient.  He became well known for his stand against the “bleeding barber surgeons” and worked tirelessly to limit their venues.

His fellow faculty members depicted him as “superb, spiteful, confused, scornful, irascible and jealous” as described by R. Kohler in the European Orthopaedics Bulletin.  Andry was creative and prolific in his writings.  In 1700 he wrote his first book in which his explanations earned him the title “Father of Parasitology”.  At the age of 80 he published his famous work L’Orthopedie, a two volume set, in Paris in 1741 and it was translated in Brussels in 1742, London in 1743 and Berlin in 1744.

The book had artistic chapters on external proportions, methods of preventing trunk and spine deformities and had suggestions for physical therapy.  In a section addressing limb deformities, Andry recommended a bent leg be corrected by bandaging it to an iron plate as was commonly done to straighten the crooked trunk of a sapling.  From there came the orthopaedic crooked tree symbol, which has stood the test of time, translation and modernization.

Andry died in Paris at the age of 84 not long after having written his famous volume L’Orthopedie.  Kohler reminds us that Nicholas Andry neither deserves to be scorned nor to be revered.  “He produced fundamental ideas on methods of prevention, the plasticity of the child and the importance of gymnastics” and was known for his astute observations and colorful personality.  Few of Man’s whims or drawings or scribblings have survived to become as internationally recognized as the “Tree of Andry”.

Dr. Kiburz is an orthopaedic surgeon practicing in Sedalia, MO, USA and specializing in foot, ankle, and arthroscopic surgery.  He is also an accomplished sculptor who has produced a beautiful, three-dimensional, copper interpretation of the 1741 Tree of Andry.