The Galileo Project
site map

Gohory, Jacques [alias Orlande de Suave or Leo Suavius]

1. Dates
Born: Paris, 20 Jan. 1520
Died: Paris, 15 March 1576
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 56
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official, Aristocrat
Pierre Gohory, sieur de la Tour et de Laval, was an advocate to the Parlement of Paris, a member of the noblesse de la robe. His wife was from a similar family.
They were clearly wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris; Unknown, LD
Gohory studied poetry, music, and the like at the Collège de Sainte-Barbe. Apparently he began his higher education in Paris, and then went to some provincial university, which is unknown, to study law. From his status as an avocat to the Parlement I have assumed the legal degree, and I also assume a B.A. or its equivalent. Later on, after his diplomatic career, he pursued the occult arts including alchemy, as well as natural history.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
It appears that he took minor orders; he was never ordained and did not live as a priest.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Primary: Alc, Iatrochemistry, Pharmacology
Subordinate: Natural History, Botany, Scientific Organization
Gohory is important as an early disseminator of Paracelsian ideas in France. His Compendium (1568) of the philosophy and medicine of Paraclesus contains a summary of Paraclesus'principal doctrines and a commentary on his De vita longa. In his retirement he also devoted himself to alchemy, on which he published.
The Lycium philosophal, which he founded in his home in Paris, became a center for the preparation of chemical medicines. The grounds of his home were devoted to an early botanical garden, made up largely of medicinal plants. His short monograph on tobacco, L'instruction sur l'herbe petum (1572), is one of the earliest on the subject. It is concerned primarily with the medicinal uses (as they were then perceived) of tobacco. He also pursued natural history in general.
The Lycium approached the status of an early scientific academy where interested men gathered.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Patronage
As a young man, in the period 1543-56, he was attached to a succession of men very prominent in France, such as Anne de Montmorency and Odet de Selve, and with them he followed the peripatetic court of Francis I. Even before 1543 he was briefly in the service of Anne d'Alencon, Marquise of Monferrat. He served Gabriel le Veneur, Bishop of Evreux, for several years. None of the sources on him discusses any professional activity (as an avocat of the Parlement, a standing he gained at the beginning of his career) beyond this personal service. During this period he served on various ambassadorial missions, including periods in England, and especially in Rome (1554-1556) as secretary to Odet de Selve. He did retain his title of advocate to the Parlement until his death.
It would appear that Gohory was socially clumsy and was considered something of an embarrassment by his family. Though he was the eldest son, the father explicitly bequeathed his title and the bulk of the estate to Gohory's younger brothers. Nevertheless, he inherited enough to live on, and hating the life of the court, he retired to private life in 1556 and devoted himself henceforth to study.
In 1573, at the instigation of Christophe de Thou, long a friend of the family, the Parlement of Paris, of which de Thou was president, seized the recent legacy of Pierre Ramus to endow a chair in mathematics at the Collège Royale, and perverted it to a subsidy of 500 livres per annum for Gohory. He was designated royal historiographer and was expected to continue Paolo Emilio's De rebus gestis francorum which had been left incomplete. Gohory received this income until his death three years later.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official, Government Official, Court Official
See in part what is said above about Gohory's support. Gohory dedicated some of his books to the aristocrats he served--a translation of Machiavelli's Discourses on Titus Livy and another book to le Veneur, the Bishop of Evreux, a translation of Livy's Decades and another work to Montmorency. He dedicated the manuscript of the history produced on order to de Thou, and an edition of Livy to de Thou's brother, the Bishop of Chartes.
Gohory was a prolific dedicator, illustrating the whole intention of dedications. He dedicated separate books of Amandis, which he translated into French, to the Duchess of Nevers, the Countess de Retz, Marguerite of Navarre, and Diane of Poitiers (the mistress of Henry II), and later complained that the last two did not reward him. (I note, incidentally, these dedications to women, and also his service to a woman, the significance of which I do not now understand.)
He also dedicated his first long Latin poem to Pierre du Chatel, a prominent aristocrat and the Bishop of Mâcon. He dedicated part of his work on Paracelsus (the volume had three dedications, the other two to peers) to Louis Saint-Gellais de Leusac, who had preceded de Selve as ambassador to Rome and who remained in the city while Gohory was there. He dedicated his translation of Machiavelli's Prince to don Ian Francisque delli Affaytdi [sic], and L'herbe petum to don Ian Francisque Caraffe, duc d'Arian. (I gather that these two don Ian Francisques were not one and the same.)
Catherine de' Medici as it were sponsored L'herbe petum, though Gohory did not dedicate it to her. In 1574, together with others, he published a collection of Latin poems welcoming Henry III back from Poland.
Gohory is of interest in part because he clearly despised the status of client. Partly this may be his reaction to the family's rejection of him and a feeling that he was not appreciated as much as he deserved. In any case, he retired from the court (though not from dedicating). In 1572, in his dedication of L'herbe petum, and at much the same time, in his dedication of the thirteenth book of Amandis to Catherine de Clermont, Countess de Retz, he complained that the grandees who had utilized his services had shown an abominable ingratitude toward him. Therefore, having observed the ways of the court, he abandoned it was soon as he could. (See Hamy, p. 6, and Bowen, p. 78.)
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Pharmacology
See above.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
From 1572 he maintained a private academy which he called Lycium Philosophal San Marcellin, at his home in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel. The academy was devoted to the encyclopedic cultivation of the arts in the Italian Neoplatonic tradition, emphasizing achemy, botany, and magical arts. The Lycium had a botanical garden and a chemical laboratory, which became a center for the preparation of chemical medicines.
  1. E.-T. Hamy, "Un precurseur de Guy de la Brosse. Jacques Gohory et le Lycium Philosophal de Saint Marceau de Paris (1571- 1576)," Nouvelles archives du Museum d'histoire naturelle, 4th ser., 1 (1899), pp. 1-26.
  2. Thorndike 5, 635-40.
  3. Partington, 2, 162-3.
  4. D.P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magaic from Ficino to Campanella, (London, 1958), pp. 96-106.
  5. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66), 21, 83-5.
  6. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 16, 501-2.
  7. Willis H. Bowen, Jacques Gohory (1520-1576), unpublished dissertation, Harvard, 1935. This dissertation is far and away the leading source on Gohory.
  8. Not consulted: Willis H. Bowen, "L'histoire de la Terre-Neuve du Péru. A Translation by Jacques Gohory," Isis, 28 (1938), 330-40.
  9. _____, "The Earliest Treatise on Tobacco: Jacques Gohory's Instruction sur l'herbe petum," Isis, 28 (1938), 347-63.
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
Last updated
Home | Galileo | Biography | Chronology | Family | Portraits |
Science | Christianity | Library | About | Site Map | Search

Please note: We will not answer copyright requests.
See the copyright page for more information.