“Fabry’s enthusiasm for anatomy may have been triggered by his survival of the plague as a child”, reports Dr. Wolfgang Antweiler, Head of the Wilhelm Fabry Museum in Hilden. After his apprenticeship as a barber, the former grammar school pupil worked as an assistant for highly reputed court surgeon Cosmas Slot in Düsseldorf. “There he acquired the necessary knowledge of human anatomy. Fabry adopted Slot’s conviction that all surgery should be based on a thorough knowledge of anatomy”, recounts Antweiler.
After the death of his master, Fabry moved to Geneva, as the French-speaking part of Switzerland had a reputation at that time for the number of outstanding physicians working there. Geneva was also the place where he met his wife, Marie Colinet, who he married in 1587. Marie Colinet helped her husband treat patients. “She herself developed the method of extracting metal from a patient’s eye with a magnet. She also helped women with particularly difficult births,” says Antweiler. Fabry practiced from 1602 to 1615 as a surgeon in the towns of Payerne and Lausanne. The climax of his career was his appointment as Surgeon of the City of Berne in 1615, a position he held until his death in 1634.