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.
Hatch RA. History, Science. JAMA. 2004;292(16):2019–2024. doi:10.1001/jama.292.16.2023
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