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La Brosse, Guy de

1. Dates
Born: Probably Paris, c. 1586
Died: Apparently Paris, 30 or 31 August 1641
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 55
2. Father
Occupation: Physician
His father, Isaie de la Brosse, was a physician and a medical botanist. Indeed he was a royal physician.
As always, I assume affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Montpelier, M.D.
He studied chemistry, botany and medicine. Probably received his M.D. at Montpellier.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist, (Cth,) Heterodox
Various evidence makes it clear that La Brosse's parents were Huguenots.
Although formally Catholic, La Brosse was very close to libertine circles in Paris during the first half of the 17th century.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany, Medicine, Pharmacology
Subordinate: Iat.
His major book, De la nature, vertu et utilité des plantes (Paris, 1628), was a theoretical book about plants in general. In it he raised questions about the generation, growth, and nutrition of plants. He also published a monograph on the causes of the plague, Traicté de la peste (Paris, 1623), and several other works on medicine, on plants, and on the collection of plants in the Jardin du Roi.
His titles make it clear that he regarded the Jardin du Roi as a collection of medicinally useful plants. The edict establishing it referred to it as a "Jardin des Plantes Medicinales" for the instruction of students of medicine.
From the beginning, La Brosse's idea of the Jardin included instruction in chemistry as a handmaiden to medicine, and he devoted part of his works to chemistry--Paracelsian chemistry.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Medicine, Personal Means
Secondary: Government
In his youth, he may have been a soldier. By 1614 he had settled in Paris and was botanizing on Mont Valerien. By 1619 he was physician to Henry II of Bourbon, Prince of Condé.
In 1626 he had become one of the physicians in ordinary to Louis XIII.
In 1626 he also appointed as intendant of the royal garden (the Jardin du Roi) upon its formation. (The Jardin did not in fact open until 1640.) In fact, La Brosse's involvement in the Jardin was far more than that. The Jardin was largely his creation. He lobbied for its establishment and then harassed Richelieu until he supplied enough funds to maintain it. In a word, La Brosse created the Jardin du Roi.
La Brosse also practiced medicine, for the wealthy I gather.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Government Official
He was appointed physician in ordinary to the king in 1626. See above.
In 1619 he was physician to the prince of Condé, Henry II de Bourbon.
Hamy refers to Card. Richelieu as his great protector, and even implies that La Brosse converted to Catholicism to please Richelieu.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
As a Paracelsian, he was highly critical of the Paris medical faculty.
He was familiar with Mersenne, Gassendi, and the members of the "cabinet" of the brothers Dupuy.
He was closely connected with libertine circles.
  1. Nouvelle biographie générale, 7, 505-6.
  2. August Hirsch, Biographisches Lexicon der hervorragenden Arzte, (1929-1934), 1, 715. Z6658.B615 RF Antoine de Jussieu, Mémoires de l'Académie, 1727, pt. 2, 189-200.
  3. Not in Dictionnaire de biographie française.
  4. Antoine L.J. Bayle and _____ Thillaye, Biographie médicale, (Glasgow, 1906), 1, 464-5.
  5. E.-T. Hamy, "Famille de Guy de la Brosse," Bulletin du Museum d'histoire naturelle, 6 (1900), 13-16.
  6. --------, "Quelques notes sur la moet et la succession de Guy de la Brosse," ibid., 3 (1897), 152-4.
  7. Jean-Paul Contant, L'enseignement de la chimie au Jardin Royale des Plantes de Paris, (Cahors, 1952).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. N.F.J.Eloy, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine, 4 vols., (Mons, 1778), 1, 456-7.
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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