Medical Revolution in France, 1789-1796

Medical Revolution in France, 1789-1796

Medical Revolution in France, 1789-1796

Medical Revolution in France, 1789-1796

Excerpt

Accustomed to numbered streets and avenues, an American in Paris is struck immediately by the great names of the French past that designate her streets, boulevards, and even subway stops. A student of the Revolution feels strangely at home on the boulevards Davout, Jourdan, Ney, Kellermann, Macdonald, Masséna, Murat, and Soult because he can quickly conjure up a vision of the brilliant marshals and the glittering legions of the armies of Napoleon I. Equally familiar are the place-names commemorating the political and literary giants of that era. But perhaps most surprisingly pleasant is the discovery of streets named for Bichat, Brillat-Savarin, Hallé, and Parmentier and subway stations memorializing Corvisart and Daubenton.

For one who has an interest in the history of French medicine, there is great satisfaction in an afternoon stroll on the Left Bank east from Napoleon's tomb at the Invalides, past the spires of St. Clotilde, down the Boulevard Saint Germain to the Ancienne Faculté de Médecine of the Rue des Saints Pères, past the School of Medicine to the Rue Saint Jacques, turning south past the Sorbonne, and on down to the Val-de-Grâce. Or one may head south from the Invalides past the Hospital Laënnec, the Children's Hospital, and the Necker, to the Pasteur Institute and beyond to the Hospital Broussais, then turn east to the Hospital Cochin, the Pitié, and the Salpêtrière, past the Jardin des Plantes, and then back to the Hôtel-Dieu on the Ile de la Cité. Seeing the great medical landmarks of the French past is a sufficient stimulation to the historian to attempt to recapture for others something of the excitement and significance of the turbulent revolutionary era in which French medicine was thrust into the modern world.

Any consideration of the medical revolution that was rooted in the French Revolution requires, first of all, a survey of the state of French medicine prior to 1789. The medical world of the eighteenth century was . . .

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