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Théophraste Renaudot

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Born at Loudun, 1586; died at Paris, 25 October, 1653. Doctor of the medical faculty at Montpellier in 1606, he travelled in Italy in order to study the workings of the pawn-shop ( mons pietatis ) in that country. On his return to France, Leclerc du Tremblay, known as Pére Joseph, summoned him to court to explain his theories on the alleviation of poverty. He was named physician in ordinary to the king (1612) and in 1617 obtained the privilege of founding an intelligence office where poor people might make known their needs, free of charge, and inquire as to places where work could be had, and where charitable people could learn the names of the deserving poor. In 1618, he received the title of commissioner-general to the poor of the kingdom. In 1628, after the surrender of La Rochelle, he became a Catholic and from this time, thanks to the help of Richelieu, his charitable activity was most fruitful. Renaudot added to his intelligence office a pawn-shop and an auction-house. On 30 May, 1631, he established a weekly, the "Gazette de France", in which he defended the politics of Richelieu. About 1632, he created in his intelligence office weekly conferences which constituted a kind of free school of medical sciences. Finally, dating from 1640, he inaugurated free consultations for the sick, in which he was assisted by fifteen physicians, and free visiting physicians. He published "La présence des absents" (1642), the first treatise in France on diagnosis, and which aimed at permitting sick persons at a distance from all medical aid to describe their symptoms to the physician. In 1640, the medical faculty of Paris wished to forbid him to practise; it relied upon Parliament, which was hostile to Richelieu, and a pamphlet of Guy Patin violently attacked Renaudot. Louis XIII by a decree of 14 July, 1641, decided in favour of Renaudot, but after the deaths of Richelieu and Louis XIII, his enemies renewed their attacks, pretending that he had accused Louis XIII of favouring Lutheranism and that he had calumniated Anne of Austria. The provost of Paris at the end of 1643, and Parliament in 1644, prohibited him from the practice of medicine, and the medical faculty, 4 June, 1644, officially inaugurated another system of free consultations. Renaudot was, nevertheless, a pioneer in relief work for the poor, journalism, and medicine. The medical theories which he had held against the medical faculties of his times in favour of the use of antimony, laudanum, and quinine, have prevailed since his death. During the last years of his life he devoted his time wholly to the "Gazette".

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