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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/706

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE FOUNDER OF THE FIRST SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL.
By M. JACQUES BOYER.

WHEN recently the statue of Theophrast Renaudot, the founder of French political journalism, was unveiled, the literary and scientific journals were alike full of praises of him and his work; but none of them recollected another pioneer in his field, the modest and profoundly erudite Denis de Sallo, the founder of the Journal des Sçavants, who did for letters and science what Renaudot so successfully accomplished for politics.

Without undertaking a full sketch of the history of the French scientific press, I desire only to show here how new in 1665 was that idea, which seems so simple and natural now, of the creation of a scientific journal; how many impediments were raised against its creator by the commonplace authors whom the new tribunal condemned without appeal; what patience, what erudition, what a prodigious sum of labor were required from its founders to surmount all the obstacles, avoid all the perils they met every day, and give their work a vitality strong enough to permit it, rising repeatedly from its ashes, to perpetuate itself till our time.

Denis de Sallo, Seigneur of la Coudray, was born in Paris in 1626, of an old noble family of Poitou. His lessons in early childhood were not brilliant; but after he entered the courses of rhetoric at the Collége des Grassins he obtained all the prizes of his class; became in the next year a distinguished pupil in philosophy, and having sustained in public remarkable theses in Latin and Greek, gave himself up with ardor to the study of law. His advance was so rapid that he was able in 1652 to succeed his father, Jacques de Sallo, in his office as counselor at the Parliament of Paris. Three years later he married Elizabeth Menardeau, daughter of a counselor in the Grand Chamber, by whom he had one son and four daughters. He died on the 14th of May, 1669, of apoplexy. His death, according to Vigneuil Marville, was caused by the loss of all his fortune in gambling in 1665; but, besides that this story has little probability in view of the character of De Sallo, who was industrious through all his life, it is controverted by a letter of Guy Patin's of the 13th of November, 1665, which proves that at that time De Sallo had no thought of dying, and by the testimony of Père Honoré de Sainte Marie, who agrees with Moréri in placing his death in 1669 and not in 1665.

Having given an outline of the principal events of De Sallo's life, which was otherwise quiet enough, we pass to the study of his character and work. "He read all sorts of books," says Moréri, "with incredible care, and kept secretaries continually employed to write down his reflections and the passages which he