Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/535

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IN the year 1749 there came up to Paris from the Pyrenees a young medical graduate of Montpellier who was destined to become, by reputation, at least, the most distinguished French practitioner of his time. At the age of twenty-three Théophile de Bordeu (1722-76) was already professor of anatomy at Montpellier and inspector of mineral waters at Auch and Pau; at twenty-five he had been elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and, except for an empty purse, his Parisian success was assured, not only through his handsome presence, his attractive meridional disposition and his newly acquired fashionable connections, but in part through the influence and reputation of his father, who was one of the best known Montpellier physicians of his time. In order to launch himself it was necessary for young Bordeu to pass the examinations of the Paris Faculty (his Montpellier degree counting for nothing here) and to gain the good will of its members; yet, in spite of these handicaps, he began to loom large in public consideration, when his fortunes took an unexpected turn. Bouvart, a rich and powerful practitioner of the day, became so envious that he pursued Bordeu with venomous hatred, and accused him of stealing jewels from the body of a dead patient.[1] On this charge he actually succeeded in having his name stricken from the list of Parisian physicians, and it was reinstated, after long dispute, and only through powerful influence and by two acts of Parliament. The reason for this savage manifestation of professional jealousy (the charge of theft is said to have been false) was not because the young Béarnais physician possessed any very formidable, overtopping ability, but on account of the ease with which he glided into a fashionable practice and aristocratic consideration. In an age in which the byword was "Le ridicule tue," his morals and his moral life were those of the courtiers of the period, and he seems to have succeeded largely through the good graces of women, one of whom, in fact, raised the money start him in practice. In his early days he had not found the rustic patients of the provinces to his liking and he aimed at a court clientèle with such success that shortly before his death he was called to the bedside of the moribund Louis XV. He himself was found dead in bed on the morn-

  1. Stealing from dead bodies was a favorite imputation against the eighteenth century doctor and is represented in an old water-color sketch of Rowlandson's.