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JAMA Revisited
June 8, 2021

Centenary of the French Academy of Medicine

JAMA. 2021;325(22):2319. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17978

Originally Published June 11, 1921 | JAMA. 1921;76(24):1686- 1687.

Our Paris correspondent has told1 of the celebration, beginning Dec. 20, 1920, of the most important anniversary connected with French medicine—the centenary of the Academy of Medicine, which has the same preeminence in medicine that the general French Academy bears in relation to the more liberal arts. Its roster bears only the names of those who have by years of achievement won recognition in the profession, and there are few below middle life who have been accorded the honor of election. Trousseau, who received the academy prize in 1837 for his classical treatise on laryngeal phthisis, was considered unusually fortunate in that he gained admission in his thirty-sixth year. The academy was founded in 1820 by royal edict of Louis XVIII, although its name appeared as early as 1804 as an entirely ephemeral institution, the chief interest attaching to it being that Dr. Guillotin was one of its presidents. The French Revolution, with its ruthless submergence of all that pertained to the old order of things, dissolved all medical associations, and among these the Academy of Surgery and the Royal Society of Medicine, which after nearly a century of existence disappeared, to come to life again in the founding of the present Academy of Medicine. The initial concept of the academy was the formation of a body which, by its scientific labors and achievements, should be an asset to the state in matters of public health. The decree which constituted it lays down certain functions which it was to carry on. Among them were improvements in the method of vaccination against smallpox, the measures for the control of epidemic diseases, regulations as to and concerning legal jurisprudence, and the examination of and passing on new remedies, together with the limitation of the sale of nostrums, both those of French and those of foreign origin. While the present academy still holds the latter function, its work, to a large degree, is hampered by the administration of French law, as was pointed out in a former editorial.2