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THEOPHRASTE RENAUDOT (1586-1653)

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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 97 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THEOPHRASTE RENAUDOT (1586-1653), French physician and philanthropist, was born at Loudun (Vienna), and studied surgery in Paris. He was only nineteen when he received, by favour apparently, the degree of doctor at Montpellier. After some time spent in travel he began to practise in his native town. In 1612 he was summoned to Paris by Richelieu, partly because of his medical reputation, but more because of his philanthropy. He received the titles of physician and councillor to the king, and was desired to organize a scheme of public assistance. Many difficulties were put in his way, however, and he therefore returned until 1624 to Poitou, where Richelieu made him " commissary general of the poor." It was six years before he was able to begin his work in Paris by opening an information bureau at the sign of the Grand Coq near the Pont Saint-Michel. This bureau d'adresse was labour bureau, intelligence department, exchange and charity organization in one; and the sick were directed to doctors prepared to give them free treatment. Presently he established a free dispensary in the teeth of the opposition of the faculty in Paris. The Paris faculty refused to accept the new medicaments pro-posed by the heretic from Montpellier, restricting themselves to the old prescriptions of blood-letting and purgation. In addition to his bureau d'adresse Renaud established a system of lectures and debates on scientific subjects, the reports of which from 1633 to 1642 were published in 1651 with the title Recueil des conferences publiques; Under the protection of Richelieu he started the first French newspaper, the Gazette (1631), which appeared weekly and contained political and foreign news. He also edited the Mercure francais and published all manner of reports and pamphlets. In 1637 he opened in Paris the first Mont de Piete, an institution of which he had seen the advantages in Italy. In 1640 the medical faculty, headed by Guy Patin, started a campaign against the innovator of the Grand Coq. After the death of Richelieu and of Louis XIII. the victory of Renaudot's enemies was practically certain. The parlement of Paris ordered him to return the letters patent for the establishment of his bureau and his Mont de Piete, and refused to allow him to -practise medicine in Paris. The Gazette remained, and in 1646 Renaudot was appointed by Mazarin historiographer to the king. During the first Fronde he had his printing presses at Saint-Germain. He died on the 25th of October 1653. His difficulties had been increased by his Protestant opinions. His sons Isaac (d. 1688) and Eusebe (d. 1699) were students for ten years before they could obtain their doctorates from the faculty. They carried on their father's work, and defended the virtues of antimony, laudanum and quinine against the schools. See E. Hatin, Theodore Renaudot (Poitiers, 1883), and La Maison du Coq (Paris, 1885); Michel Emery, Renaudot et l'introduction de la medication chimique (Paris, 1889) ; and G. Bonnefont, Un Oublie. Theophraste Renaudot (Limoges, n.d.).
End of Article: THEOPHRASTE RENAUDOT (1586-1653)
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