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Mery, Jean

1. Dates
Born: Vatan, 6 Jan. 1645
Died: Paris, 3 Nov. 1722
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 77
2. Father
Occupation: Physician
Mery's father was a surgeon. His maternal grandfather was a M. Carrere, the chief surgeon of Madame Henriette, the Queen of England.
I assume affluence at least.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He took a dislike to his studies and at the age of eighteen ran away to Paris to follow in his father's profession. He began to study anatomy at the Hotel Dieu. In addition to his regular studies during the day, Mery undertook clandestine dissections whenever the opportunity arose.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Surgery
Subordinate: Physiology
Most of Mery's work was comparative-anatomical and pathological. His pathological research was mostly concerned with human developmental malformations.
After 1684, he became associated with the comparative-anatomical work led by C. Perrault and Duverney.
In 1693, Mery was embroiled in a controversy over the traditional interpretation of mammalian fetal circulation. He based his theory on preserved and dry specimens which yielded inconsistent findings. Nevertheless, Mery held his views until his death.
Among his other anatomical works were his research on the ear following Lami; his description of the urethral glands before Cowper; and his description of the eustachian valve preceding that of Winslow.
He entered into the discussion of the vacuum.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Government, Patronage
After studying at the Hotel Dieu, Mery set up a private surgical practice becoming well known particularly in lithotomy. Much of his career centered around the Hotel Dieu, where he trained young surgeons. His love for the science and his zeal for its advancement were the driving force behind the building of the surgical amphitheatre and the establishment of courses in anatomy and surgery. He became a surgeon at the Hotel Dieu in 1681 and chief surgeon in 1700.
He was appointed senior surgeon at Les Invalides in 1683.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official
In 1681, he was appointed court surgeon to the queen. Two years later, Marquis de Louvois appointed him senior surgeon at Les Invalides. In 1684, Louvois sent him on a medical mission to Portugal. He arrived too late to save the Queen of Portugal. Mery remained in Portugal for some months practicing and studying. Upon his return M. Fagon chose Mery in the name of the King to be surgeon for the Duc de Bourgogne while the court travelled to Chambord. Mery found court life more foreign than life in Portugal and returned to Paris as soon as he was able.
Louvois had Mery entered into the Académie.
In 1692, Mery was sent on a second medical mission, this time to England.
M. Harlay, the first president of the Hotel Dieu, appointed Mery chief surgeon in 1700.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Académie Royal des Sciences 1684-1722
Correspondence with Pascal. He had several disputes with Pascal on the existence of a vacuum. But later in his Gravitas he honored Pascal for his role in developing an experiment to produce a vacuum within a vacuum.
  1. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66). J.P.
  2. Niceron, Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire des hommes illustres (1700s).
  3. Antoine L.J. Bayle and _____ Thillaye, Biographie médicale, (Glasgow, 1906).
  4. Dezeimeris, J.E. Ollivier and Raige-Delorme, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (Paris, 1828-39). The names, without first names or initials except for Ollivier, appear this way on volume 1; Dezeimeris alone appears on the remaining volumes.
  5. Fontenelle, Eloge de M. Mery. Q46.A16 1754 Michaud, Biographie générale.
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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