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Books, Journals, New Media
October 27, 2004

History, Science

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(16):2019-2024. doi:10.1001/jama.292.16.2023

Flamboyant yet stately, a statue today stands silently before the Hôtel de Ville in Loudun, birth place of Théophraste Renaudot (1586-1653), Physician to the King, pioneer in relief for the poor, creator of the Gazette de France, and founder of the Conférences du Bureau d’Adresse (Paris, 1633-1642). For decades Renaudot’s statue overlooked a small café—which bore his name—a conversation spot for scholars working at Loudun’s City Archives.

A popular hero in France, Renaudot remains controversial among specialists. All agree his medical contributions were eclectic but important. For more than a century scholars have hyped Renaudot as the people’s champion against the power of the Paris Faculty of Medicine; today a prestigious prize cements his reputation as founder of modern journalism. His origins were humble. After taking his medical degree at Montpellier in 1606, Renaudot returned to Loudun where his work soon drew patronage from Richelieu. Converting to Catholicism, Renaudot moved to Paris where his career shadowed the fortunes of the new Cardinal. A creature of Richelieu, Renaudot did not enjoy a heroic reputation among contemporaries. Many elite physicians considered him a shrewd publicist and medical charlatan, an opportunist who blurred political propaganda and legitimate learning.