Other photo of Joseph Duchesne
The title page of Duchesne's Pharmacopea dogmaticorum.
Other photo of Joseph Duchesne
The title page of Duchesne's Quercetanus redivivus, hoc est, ars medica dogmatico-hermetica.
Traicte Familier De L’Exacte Preparation Spagyrique Des Medicamens, Pris D’entre Les Mineraux, Animaux Et Vegetaux
Joseph Duchesne Edit Profile
Duchesne studied at Montpellier, and then at Basle, where he received a medical diploma in 1573.
For some time Duchesne was settled at Kassel, the capital of the grand duchy of Hesse. Later Duchesne moved to Geneva where he was received as a citizen in 1584. After election to the Council of Two Hundred (1587), he was sent on several diplomatic missions. In 1592 he helped determine the peace terms which the Republic of Geneva made with its neighbors. The following year Duchesne returned to Paris, where he was appointed physician in ordinary to King Henry IV.
His La morocosmie (1583, 1601) and Poesies chrestiennes (1594) have been commented on favorably by literary historians while his other poetical work, Le grand miroir du monde (1584, 1595), is important for Duchesne’s concept of the elements. In addition, he ventured into tragicomedy with L’ombre de Gamier Stauffacher (1583), a work which took as its theme the alliance between Zurich, Berne, and Geneva.
Duchesne’s medicoscientific works are best seen as part of the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century debate on the place of chemistry in medicine and natural philosophy. The flood of Paracelsian texts published in the third quarter of the sixteenth century had gained many adherents to the new medicine, but at the same time it had brought forth strong opposition from the medical establishment.
Peter Severinus had attempted to systematize the works of Paracelsus in 1571, and Guinther von Andernach had written in defense of the new chemically prepared medicines in the same year, but Thomas Erastus at Basel had prepared a lengthy and detailed attack on Paracelsus and his views (1572-1573). Alarmed by the increasing internal use of minerals and metals, the Faculty of Medicine at Paris forbade the further prescription of antimony in this fashion (c. 1575).
The strong critique of the views of Paracelsus on chemical medicines and the origin of metals written by Jacques Aubert in 1575 was the occasion for Duchesne’s first publication. His Responsio to Aubert (1575) was a strong defense of the iatrochemical position, and although it was a short work, it was reprinted often and attracted considerable attention.
In the Responsio and many other works Duchesne offered a large number of pharmaceutical preparations. His Sclopetarius (1576), which dealt with the cure of gunshot wounds, and his Pharmacopoea dogmaticorum (1607) are only two of many works by him that were translated into several languages and went through numerous editions.
A series of polemical works debating the value of the new medicine and the extent to which chemistry might be employed by physicians were printed in the last quarter of the century. In France the matter reached a climax when Duchesne published his De priscorum philosophorum verae medicinae materia (1603). This work was immediately answered by the elder Jean Riolan who accused him of wishing to sweep away the venerable medicine of the ancients in his Apologia pro Hippocratis Galeni medicina (1603).
In his reply to Riolan, published the following year, Duchesne denied this charge and answered that he wished only to use the best of the old medicine along with the new chemistry. These works were followed by a series of other works in which both Riolans, Israel Harvet, Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, Andreas Libavius, and many other authors participated.
- Le Grand Miroir Du Monde 1587
- La Pharmacopee Des Dogmatiques Reformee Et Enrichie de Plusieurs Remedes Excellents 1639
- Traicte Familier De L’Exacte Preparation Spagyrique Des Medicamens, Pris D’entre Les Mineraux, Animaux Et Vegetaux 1639
- La Peste Recognue Et Combatue 1608
- A Storehouse Of Physical And Philosophical Secrets 1633
- Le Ricchezze della Riformata Farmacopea 1619
After marriage to his wife Anne Duchesne became a Calvinist convert.
For Duchesne - as for other iatrochemists - chemistry was to serve as a key to all nature. His cosmology was based on the biblical story of the Creation, and in his discussion he pictured the Creator as an alchemist separating the elements from the unformed chaos. In the fifteenth chapter of the Ad veritatem hermeticae medicinae ex Hippocratis veterumque decretis ac therapeusi (1604), Genesis is clearly interpreted in terms of the three Paracelsian principles of salt, sulfur, and mercury. In the earlier Le grand miroir du monde (1584) Duchesne had also accepted the Aristotelian water and earth as elementary substances. This five-element principle system has much in common with the five-element descriptions so common in the works of later seventeenth-century chemists.
Duchesne rejected the four humors of the ancients and when discussing the vascular system specifically spoke of the “circulation” of the blood. By this, however, he meant a series of local circulations in different organs, analogous to the heating of liquids in distillation flasks. His was a world view based on a close relation of the macrocosmic and microcosmic worlds. An integral part of this was his sincere belief in the doctrine of signatures, which for him were an important guide to divine gifts existing here on earth. Duchesne wrote of the need of “experientia” and new observations for a proper understanding of nature, and although he objected to being called a Paracelsian, his views were similar to those of Paracelsus in many respects.
In addition, the Parisian debate was influential in bringing about more general acceptance of chemically prepared medicines. The chemists had been generally agreed that their aim was not to destroy all of the old medicine, but rather to apply what they found valuable in the works of the ancients along with the best of the new chemical medicine. This surely had been the view taken by Duchesne and it was also that of Mayerne, who had been the first of Duchesne’s colleagues to support him in 1603.
During the 1570s at Lyon, Duchesne married Anne Trie, the granddaughter of Guillaume Budé.
- Anne Trie - French