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Vieussens, Raymond

1. Dates
Born: Vigan, Lot, c. 1635
Died: Montpellier, 16 August 1715
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 80
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
We are told only that Vieussens' father was a bourgeois of Vigan. There is a death notice of a Francois Vieussens, maréchal, who might well have been Raymond's father. Another family member, Jean Vieussens, was a surgeon.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Montpelier, M.D.
Vieussens completed his secondary studies at Rodez. He studied medicine at the University of Montpellier, graduating in 1670 with his doctorate. This is a surprisingly late age, but there is no information indicating why he did not receive his degree earlier. He was well-known already at the time of his graduation. He may have completed earlier studies at Toulouse or Cahors.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology
Subordinate: Iatrochemistry
He is most well-known for his book on the nervous system, Neurographia universalis (1684), and his work on fermetation.
Though he was prominent in the science of medicine at Montpellier, he spent his entire career outside the city's university and sometimes in opposition to its professors.
He divided his time between his medical pratice at St. Eloi and his anatomical research. On the nervous system, he continued the work of Thomas Willis, following the suggestion of Steno to study the white substance of the brain by tracing the path of its fibers. His description of the cerebellum and his discovery of the dentate nuclei surpassed all previous publications on the subject. He also studied the structure of the ear and angiology.
He was involved in a priority dispute with Chirac, a member of the Montpellier Faculty of Medicine, over the first to have extracted an acidic salt from blood (both results were erroneous).
During the last decade of his life he conducted research in cardiology. Among his cardiological treatises his Traité nouveau de la structure et des causes du mouvement naturel du couer (1715) reported his observations that confirmed the hypothesis that there was a continuous vascular pathway between the arterial and venous vessels. He was the first to note that aortic diseases manifest themselves by a characteristics pulse, rediscovered a century later by P.J. Corrigan, whose name it now bears.
The drawback to Vieussens's work was his tendency to conjoin his correct morphological observations with rather fantastic physiological explanations. He drew inspiration from Descarte's mechanistic philosophy and Sylvius's iatrochemical ideas.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Patronage, Medicine
Almost immediately after graduation he was named physician at Hotel Dieu at St. Eloi, the leading hospital in Montpellier. In 1679 he became chief surgeon and held this post the rest of his life. He never sought a private practice. On several occasions he left Montpellier to treat important people in Paris. (Since his living manifestly derived from medicine, I list this also.)
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official, Court Official, Physician
The Marquis de Castries protected Vieussens from attacks by the Montpellier Faculty of Medicine allowing him to continue his clinical and experimental work in peace. De Castries brother-in-law, Pierre de Bonsi, Archbishop of Toulouse and later Cardinal, became Vieussens patron. Vieussens was his personal physician. He dedicated his Neurographia universalis to de Bonsi. Through this relationship Vieussens became physician to several leading citizens and members of the aristocracy at court.
In 1688 he received the title of royal physician to the King and 1000 livres annual pension. In gratitude for this position possibly procured for him by Fagon (the powerful court physician), Vieussens dedicated his Novum vasorum corporis humani systema (1705) to Fagon. He was the personal physician to the Duchess of Montpensier, 1690-3.
In 1707 the King named him conseiller of state and gave him an annual pension of 3000 livres. Vieussens founded a virtual dynasty of physicians with two sons and two sons-in-law becoming physicians. According to Kellett, Fagon acquired for Vieussens and his eldest son the positions as quarterly physicians to the king. For Vieussens this was a means of establishing his son.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1699-1715
He was elected to the Académie as a correspondent of P.S. Regis. In 1708 he was promoted to associate anatomist.
  1. L. Dulieu, "Raymond Vieussens," Monspeliensis Hippocrates, 10, #35 (1967), 9-26.
  2. C.E. Kellet, "Life and Work of Raymond De Vieussens," Annals of Medical History, 3rd series 4 (1942), 31-53. R11. A61 Dezeimeris, J.E. Ollivier and Raige-Delorme, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (Paris, 1828-39), 4, 335-6. The names, without first names or initials except for Ollivier, appear this way on volume 1; Dezeimeris alone appears on the remaining volumes.
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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