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Belleval, Pierre Richer de [Richer de Belleval]

1. Dates
Born: Chalons-sur-Marne, c. 1564
Died: Montpellier, 17 Nov. 1632
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 68
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
His father was N. Richer or Richier, but nothing beside the name is known about him.
Financial status unknown.
3. Nationality
Birth: France
Career: France
Death: France
4. Education
Schooling: Montpelier; Avignon, M.D.
He went to Montpellier to study medicine in 1584.
He received M.D. in Avignon in 1587.
He received his M.D. from Montpellier in 1595.
I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany
Subordinate: Natural History
He was planning to publish a general herbarium of Languedoc when he died. He left a great number of the plates that were to illustrate it; the work was to utilize a binary nomenclature in Latin or Greek.
Part of the botanical garden at Montpellier was a museum of natural history.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Academia, Government
Secondary: Medicine, Patronage
In 1587, immediately after completing his M.D., Belleval married the daughter of a deceased seigneur de Prades (who had enriched himself by trade and purchased the estate) near Montpellier. There was a considerable dowry, and it is clear that this personal estate helped to support Belleval throughout his life.
Practiced medicine in Avignon (and/or possibly Comtat) and then in Pezenas, 1587-1593. He was physician to troops for a time.
Professor of anatomy and botanical studies at the medical college of Montpellier, and in charge of the botanical garden, 1593-. Belleval devoted all of his time and money to the garden, which was the first botanical garden in France. I treat the management of the garden as a governmental position.
Belleval was the personal physician of Henry IV and then of Louis XIII (although he remained in Montpellier and was not at the court). There are documented financial favors that he received from Henry.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Court Official
Henri de Montmorency, the governor of Languedoc, was his lifelong protector from the time when they met in Pezenas. Along with Montmorency was the Duc de Ventadour. Montmorency brought Belleval from Comtat to practice medicine in Pezenas, and apparently the botanical garden was Montmorency's idea in the first place.
In 1593 Belleval obtained a letter patent from Henry IV for the foundation of a botanical garden in Montpellier. Henry also established him in a chair at Montpellier and remained his patron, as did Louis XIII after him. Belleval had the title of physician to the king.
Belleval had an enemy at Montpellier, Jacques d'Estienne, sieur de Pradilles. The ongoing struggle between the two, described in Guiraud, appears to have been a classic conflict within the system of patronage. Pradilles was also a professor of medicine at Montpellier, or perhaps rather a would-be professor, who appears to have had the support of the local magnates. Belleval, from the outside (even his degree was from Avignon) and the client of the court, kept being shoved ahead of Pradilles, who in turned used his support through the Estates of Languedoc to oppose everything Belleval tried to do. The struggle had its published dimension. Pradilles alleged that Belleval neglected his duties and squandered money. Belleval was forced to respond with Remonstrance et supplication au roi touchant la continuation de la recherche des plantes de Languedoc (1599). Pradilles continued intriguing against him, and Belleval again responded with Dessein touchant la recherche des plantes du pays de Languedoc (1695).
After the seige of 1622 destroyed the garden, Louis XIII personally authorized its re-establishment.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
The botanical garden was, of course, first of all a medicinal garden.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. L. Guiraud, "Le premier jardin des plantes francaise," in Archives de la ville de Montpellier, 4, (Montpellier, 1920), 263-396. This appears clearly to be the source on Belleval.
  2. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 5, 1352-3.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. P.J. Amoreux, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Pierre Richer de Belleval, pour servir a l'histoire de cette faculte et a celle de la botanique, (Avignon, 1786).
  2. A. Dorthes, Eloge historique de Pierre Richer de Belleval, instituteur du Jardin royal de botanique de Montpellier sous Henri IV, (Montpellier, 1788).
  3. J.E. Planchon, Pierre Richer de Belleval, fondateur du Jardin des plantes de Montpellier et Appendice contenant les pieces justficatives, (Montpellier, 1869).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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