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Duchesne [Quercetanus], Joseph

1. Dates
Born: l'Esturre (or Esturre), Armagnac, c. 1544
Died: France, 20 August 1609
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 65
2. Father
Occupation: Physician
His father Jacques was a physician. DBF says that the father started his life as an assistant to a country surgeon; perhaps physician implies a higher status than he had.
While I usually put physicians down as affluent, I think I should put the financial status in this case as unknown.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French, Swiss
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Montpelier; Basel, M.D.
He studied first at Montpellier, and received his medical degree at Basel in 1573.
DBF does not mention Montpelier; it says that he studied in Bordeaux and Germany, and then Switzerland where he received his M.D. at Basel.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist
If Duchesne was not already a Calvinist, he became one under the influence of his wife, Anne Tyre, in Lyon during the 1570's. He left Lyon in 1580, probably for religious reasons.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Iatrochemstry, Alchemy, Medicine
Subordinate: Pharmacology
Among his many works, the Sclopetarius (1576), which deals with the cure of gunshot wounds, and the Pharmacopea dogmaticorum (1607) were translated into several languages and went through numerous editions. In his works he offered a large number of remedies prepared from substances of mineral, vegetable, and animal origin.
Much of his influence derived from the debate his work initiated at Paris. His De priscorum philosophorum verae medicinae materia (1603) and Ad veritatem hermeticae medicinae ex Hippocratis veterumque decretis ac therapeusi (1604) went through many editions in several languages and did much to publicize his version of the chemical philosophy.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage, Personal Means
1572-80, he probably practiced medicine in Lyon, making enough of a name for himslef that he was able to marry Anne Tyre, the daughter of a magistrate and granddaughter of Guillaume Budé, described as a "very rich heiress." During this period Duchesne styled himself ordinary physician to François-Hercule, Duke of Anjou. In 1580 he sold his considerable holdings (doubtles stemming from his wife) and bought real estate in Germany and Geneva.
He practiced medicine at Kassel for some time, and later moved to Geneva where he was received a citizen in 1584. After election to the Council of Two Hundred in 1587, he was sent on several diplomatic missions. In 1594 he became a member of the council of 60, the small council.
In 1598, after the Edict of Nantes, he returned to Paris and was appointed physician in ordinary to King Henry IV. He also had a successful practice.
Duchesne is described in DBF as "sieur de la Violette," and "Baron de Morence," an indication of his position. Upon his death, his daughter settled in Geneva where he had "a very considerable fortune in real estate."
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Court Official
I am taking the assertion that he was physician to the Duke of Anjou seriously.
According to some sources he was appointed physician in ordinary to Henri IV. DBF says only that he had strong connections to the court and spent much time there. In the period 1589-96 he was at the court several times as a secret agent for Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Zurich.
In 1601 Brulart de Sillery took Duchesnes along as his personal physician on a diplomatic mission to the Swiss Cantons.
In 1604 he visited the court of Maurice of Hesse-Kassel at the invitation of the Landgrave, and in a laboratory specially equipped for the visit he demonstrated his procedures to the prince and his physicians.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He was involved in the debate over the value of the new medicine and the extent to which chemistry might be employed by physicians. Jean Riolan, Israel Harvet, Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, Andreas Libavius, and many others paticipated the debate.
  1. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 11, 1239-40.
  2. W.P.D.Wightman, Science and the Renaissance, I, Edinburgh-London- N.Y., 1962, 256-263. AS122 .A2 no.143-144.
  3. Antoine L.J. Bayle and _____ Thillaye, Biographie médicale, (Paris, 1855), 1, 386-7.
  4. John Ferguson, Bibliotheca chemica,(Glasgow, 1906), 1, 353.
  5. Bruce T. Moran, "Prince-practitioning and the Direction of Medical Roles at the German Court: Maurice of Hesse-Kassel and his Physicians," in Vivian Nutton, ed. Medicine at the Courts of Europe, 1500-1700, (London, 1990), pp, 95-116.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Pierre Lordez, Joseph du Chesne, sieur de La Violette, médecin du roi Henry IV, chimiste, diplomate et poète, (Paris 1944).
  2. Something is wrong with this reference from the DSB; neither the NUC, nor the British Library, nor the Bibliotheque nationale has an entry for such a book.
  3. J. Dubédat, Étude sur un médecin gascon du XVIe siècle Joseph du Chesne. (1908)
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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