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Rondelet, Guillaume

1. Dates
Born: Montpellier, 27 Sept. 1507
Died: Realmont (Tarn), 30 July 1566
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 59
2. Father
Occupation: Pharmacist
His father was a drug and spice merchant, who died while Rondelet was a child. He was brought up by an elder brother. Among his brothers we find spice merchants and apothecaries. His sister married into a family of surgeons.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris; Montpelier, M.D.
He had very little rigorous education in his youth due to illness. In 1525 he went to study humanities at Paris, and transferred to the Medical Faculty at Montpellier in 1529. In 1531, he received his bachelor's degree. He returned to Paris in the mid-1530's to study anatomy under J. Guinter. He graduated M.D. in 1537 at Montpellier.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Calvinist (converted c. 1561)
In later years he seems to have attracted by ideas of religious reform, and by 1561 he was reckoned a member of the Protestant community. In 1552, Rondelet burned his theological books when his friend Pellicier, Bishop of Montpellier, was incarcerated for entertaining heretical notions. Later, Rondelet hid Caperon, an esteemed theologian who had escaped from a Dominican monastery.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Zoology, Medicine, Pharmacology
Subordinate: Anatomy, Natural History
Although he was active in several branches of biology, his reputation effectively depends on his massive compendium on aquatic life, which covered far more species than any earlier work in the field. The Libri de piscibus marinis in quibus verae piscium effigies expressae sunt (1554-5) laid the foundation for later ichthyological research and was the standard reference work for over a century. He published tracts De urinis and De morbo gallico and various other works on diagnosis. He produced several pharmacological works and contributed a large collection of medicinal plants to Montpellier.
Rondelet was a progressive anatomist who believed in the importance of frequent dissections. At his solicitations the first anatomical amphitheatre was erected in France by Henri II at Montpellier in 1556.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Patronage, Medicine
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Personal Means
He was procurator at Montpeller from 11 January 1530 to 2 May 1531.
Sometime before the mid-1530's he was a physician and schoolteacher in Pertuis. Before returning to complete his studies at Montpellier, he spent time as tutor to Count de Turenne. From 1538-45 he was supported predominantly by his wife's elder sister. (I list this as personal estate.)
In 1545, Schyron, chancellor at the university, appointed Rondelet regius professor of medicine at Montpellier a position that he held until his death in 1566.
During the 1540's, he was the personal physician to Francois Cardinal Tournon. Again Schyron had suggested him for the position. Rondelet received 600 livres yearly for six-months attendance. In 1551, Tournon was so pleased with Rondelet's treatment that he gave him a pension of 200 livres for the rest of his life.
In 1551, he returned to Montpellier and was elected chancellor five years later. He was very active in assuring that the royal privileges of the college were upheld by the government.
8. Patronage
Types: Academic, Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official
See the role of Schyron and of the Conte de Turenne above.
He was personal physician to Cardinal Tournon during the 1540's. He accompanied the Cardinal on visits to Antwerp and other towns in France, and to Rome in 1549.
He acknowledged Pellicier, Bishop of Montpellier, in his Libri de piscibus marinis.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
He was instrumental in the building of the first anatomical amphitheatre in France. He produced several pharmacoligical works and contributed a large collection of medicinal plants to Montpellier.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. C. Dulieu, "Guillaume Rondelet," Clio medica, 1 (1965), 89-111.
  2. R131.A1C64 J.M. Oppenheimer, "Guillaume Rondelet," Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 4 (1936), 817-34. R131.A1 J6 Antoine L.J. Bayle and _____ Thillaye, Biographie médicale, (Glasgow, 1906).
  3. Dezeimeris, J.E. Ollivier and Raige-Delorme, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (Paris, 1828-39), 4. The names, without first names or initials except for Ollivier, appear this way on volume 1; Dezeimeris alone appears on the remaining volumes.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. L. Joubert, "Vita Gulielmi Rondeletti," in his Opera latina, 2 (Lyon, 1582), 186-93.
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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