BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: BlackPast.org will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

3 + 6 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom

Fournier de Pescay, François (1771–1833)

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Francois Fournier de Pescay was the first known African-descended physician to practice medicine and surgery in Europe. Fournier de Pescay was the son of French planter François Pescay and Adélaïde Rappau, a free mulatto (mulâtresse libre). His parents left the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in 1771 and settled in Bordeaux, France. Little is known of Fournier’s childhood and young adult years in Bordeaux, a city accustomed to the sight of blacks and biracial immigrants mainly from the French West Indies. These immigrants numbered 174 residents in a 1778 census. Unlike in the colonies, there were few laws impeding upward mobility of “persons of color” (les personnes des couleur), thus Fournier benefitted from an excellent education in Paris followed by medical training in Bordeaux.

Swept up in the upheaval of the French Revolution, twenty-one-year-old Fournier, along with his brothers Jacques Philippe and Louis Georges, joined the army in 1792. During his service as an army surgeon (chirugien aide-major), he demonstrated extraordinary scientific ability by becoming the first Frenchman to duplicate Englishman Adair Crawford’s experiments with barium chloride in the treatment of tuberculosis which he later published. He left the military in 1799 to practice medicine in Brussels, Belgium, where he co-founded the city’s medical society, Société de Médecine de Bruxelles, and served as its first secretary-general, recording volumes of proceedings. In 1803 he founded the arts and sciences journal Le nouvel spirit des journaux and later published an eighty-six-page treatise on tetanus which was lauded by the Medical Society of Paris. Moving from Brussels to Strasbourg, France, he became professeur-directeur at the École Spéciale de Médecine de Strasbourg.

Fournier’s reentry into the military in 1806 as surgeon-major was uneventful until 1808 when he was ordered to the Château de Valençay to be the personal physician of the Prince of Asturias who in 1813 ascended the throne of Spain as King Ferdinand VII. While attending the confined prince, he focused his attention on early French literature, translating poetry and retelling old legends. With the departure of the prince and the return of the Bourbon monarchy in 1816, Fournier was conferred the Order of the Legion of Honor by King Louis XVIII in recognition of his exceptional medical career and service to the empire. He was also appointed secretary to the Council of Health (Conseil de Santé). His only son, Gustave-François, a writer of some note, died in 1818 at age twenty. In the post-Napoleonic era, Fournier returned to research in earnest, publishing not only on various human afflictions such as eye disease, dysentery, scabies, and fever but also medical histories and biographies of physicians.   

In 1823 Fournier sailed with his family to Port-au-Prince to direct the recently established Académie d'Haiti. He also worked in Haiti as inspector-general for health services before returning to France in poor health in 1828. After regaining his health in the South of France, he was employed as water inspector for the small town of Barèges, 55 kilometers southeast of the resort city of Pau where he died July 8, 1833, survived by his four daughters.

Sources:
Robert Fikes Jr., “François Fournier de Pescay,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 77 (September 1985); Biographie universelle, Vol. XIV, (Paris: Desplaces, 1856); http://www.une-autre-histoire.org/fournier-de-pescay-biographie/.

Contributor(s):
Fikes, Robert
San Diego State University

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - BlackPast.org v3.0 NDCHost - California | blackpast@blackpast.org | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement

BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.