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Jacques Dubois

Jacques Dubois (1478-1555), under the Latin name of Jacobus Sylvius, was an early exponent of the science of anatomy in France. He was fortunate in acquiring his reputation, since he did little original research. At the instance of his brother Francis, professor of eloquence in the college of Tournay at Paris, he devoted himself to the study of languages and mathematics; but feeling that the rewards were inadequate, Dubois abandoned them and went in for medicine. After the acquisition of a medical degree in the university of Montpellier, at the ripe age of fifty-one Dubois returned to Paris to resume a course of anatomical instruction. Here he taught anatomy to a numerous audience in the college of Trinquet; and on the departure of Vidus Vidius for Italy was appointed to succeed him as professor of surgery to the Royal College. His manners and language were described as coarse even for the time. He was an admirer of Galen, and interpreted the anatomical and physiological writings of that author in preference to giving demonstrations from the subject. He showed signs of jealousy towards those more learned than himself. Vesalius, who was his pupil, states that his manner of teaching was calculated neither to advance the science nor to rectify the mistakes of his predecessors. A human body was never seen in the theatre of Dubois; the carcases of dogs and other animals were the materials from which he taught; and so difficult even was it to obtain human bones, that unless Vesalius and his fellow-students had collected assiduously from the Innocents and other cemeteries, they must have committed numerous errors in acquiring the first principles. This assertion, however, is contradicted by J. Riolan, and afterwards by K. P. J. Sprengel and T. Lauth, the last of whom decidedly censures Vesalius for this ungrateful treatment of his instructor. It is certain that opportunities of inspecting the human body were by no means so frequent as to facilitate the study of the science. Though his mention of injections has led some to suppose him the discoverer of that art, he appears to have made no substantial addition to the information already acquired; and the first acknowledged professor of anatomy to the university of Paris appears in history as one who lived without true honour and died without just celebrity. He must not be confounded with Franciscus Sylvius (de le Boe), who is mentioned by F. Ruysch and M. V. G. Malacarne as the author of a particular method of demonstrating the brain.