Conversations de L'Academie

Conversations de L'Academie - Book 8

Pierre Bourdelot


Pierre Bourdelot (1610-1685), was a seventeenth century French physician and artisan, as well as a prominent figure in the scientific community between 1640 and 1680. He served both as king's physician but also the poor masses. He established an academy, the Academie Bourdelot where distinguished scholars such as Gilles de Roberval (1602-1675) or Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) would meet to discuss scientific thought. Conversations de L'Academie was Bourdelot’s way to record these discussions. Most of Bourdelot's publications were anecdotal in nature, summarizing his own ideas as well as those around him. These included observations, experiments and reasoning in the fields including but not limited to physics, medicine and mathematics. Bourdelot began his book by explaining the meaning of the word "d'Académie," which once meant "public school," meaning his academy was open to anyone who wished to be introduced. He then elaborated on some of the discussions for instance on cause and effects of epilepsy, the philosophy of Aristotle as compared to that of Descartes on the subject of light, observations concerning the death of a newborn, and topics of theological nature. One discussion involved sicknesses and remedies such as miracle cures or "alcxiters" that promised to cure all fevers in a day or two, cure a crying fit, or stomach bloat. Much of the described magical remedies were speculative yet popular with charlatans taking advantage of it. Bourdelot's "Conversations" opens a window to a period of budding scientific progress, societal debate, obscurity and ignorance.

(Based on research and editing done by Ronna Abayev, Class of 2021 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2017-2018.)

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