Fourcroy, Antoine Francois
instruction chimie lavoisier vols public
FOURCROY, ANTOINE FRANCOIS, COMTE DE (1755 - 1809), a celebrated chemist, son of an apothecary in the household of the duke of Orleans, was born at Paris, June 15, 1755. Some of his ancestors had been distinguished at the bar, but the branch of the family to which he belonged had become greatly reduced in circumstances. At the age of fourteen Fourcroy left the college at Harcourt, where he had profited but little by the instruction of a harsh teacher. Deterred by the ill-success of a friend from going upon the stage, he for two years maintained himself as a copyist and writing-master ; he then, in consequence of unjust treatment there received, left the office of his employer. At this juncture, Vicq d'Azyr, who having boarded at his home had become acquainted with the young man's talents, encouraged him to enter upon a medical career. We accordingly now behold Fourcroy a poor and hard-working student of medicine, his lodging a garret, in the middle only of which was it possible to stand upright, and his near neighbour a water-carrier, to whose family of twelve he acted as physician, receiving for his services a good supply of water. To support himself he gave lessons to other students, and made translations for a bookseller, who, 30 years later, when Fourcroy had become director-general of public instruction, conscientiously offered to make up for the meagreness of his former remuneration. In 1777, under the auspices of the Societe Royale de Medecine, appeared Fourcroy's first publication, Essai sur les Maladies des Artisans, the translation of a Latin work by Ramazzini, with notes and additions. At length Fourcroy, who was recognized as the most successful alumnus of the Parisian medical school, became an applicant for a gratuitous degree and licence, provision for the granting of which to the best deserving poor student had been made by the bequest of a Dr Diest. It so happened that the faculty of physic at Paris entertained feelings of the most jealous enmity against the newly-founded Socidtd Royale de Medecine, of which Vicq d'Azyr was perpetual secretary, and to humiliate him, and in him the whole society, it rejected his protege Fourcroy.
Upon this the society itself subscribed the fees requisite for a diploma (X250), which was obtained by Fourcroy ie 1780; but as the degree of " docteur regent" was unanimously refused, it was impossible for him to procure any professorship under the faculty. However, in 1784 his reputation as a chemist gained for him, although Berthollet was his fellow candidate, the lectureship of chemistry at the college of the Jardin du Roi, which had become vacant by the death of Macquer, one of the last of the phlogistic school. This post he continued to hold for the next 25 years; and so great were the crowds which his eloquence attracted that it was twice necessary to enlarge his lecture-theatre. Fourcroy was one of the first converts to the theories of Lavoisier, which he designated " La Chimie Francaise," a name which, as Thomson remarks (History of Chemistry, ii. p. 130), " certainly contributed more than anything else to give the new notions currency, at least in France." Together with Berthollet, Fourcroy was associated with Lavoisier and Guyton de Morveau in 1786 and 1787 in the preparation of a work entitled jfithode de Aromenclature Cleimique, published in the latter year. In 1785 a memoir on the tendons, subsequently completed in six parts, gained for him admission into the French Academy of Sciences. He became in 1792 one of the deputies of the National Convention, and in 1793 a member of the Assembly, and soon proved himself one of the most active of the committee for the public instruction. To him was due the enlargement of the Jardin des Plantes, and the formation of a commission for the preservation of works of art. He further was the means of releasing from imprisonment Desault, surgeon of the Hotel-Dieu, and of preventing the execution of Darcet, though, unfortunately for science, he found no opportunity of rescuing Lavoisier. On the 9th of Thermidor he was appointed a member of the committee for the public safety, and in this capacity he instituted three schools of medicine, assisted in the organization of the Ecole Polytechnique (at that time the Ecole des Travaux Publiques), and was concerned also in the establishment of the Ecole Normale, the Institut, and the Muse° d'Histoire Naturelle. After the revolution of the 9th November 1799 ho was made a councillor of state; and, being appointed director-general of instruction, he in the course of 5 years superintended the formation of 12 schools of law, over 30 lyceums, afterwards called royal colleges, and 300 elementary schools. His incessant labours at length told on his health, and he suffered greatly from palpitation of the heart. On the 16th December 1809, the very day on which by letters patent he had been created a count of the French empire, with a yearly pension of 20,000 francs, he was signing some despatches when he suddenly exclaimed " Je suis mort," and with those words expired.
Among the separate publications of Fourcroy are Lecons elementaires d'Histoire naturelle, et de Chimic, 2 vols. 8vo, 1782, enlarged, after several editions, to 10 vols. 8vo, with the title Systeme des Connaissanees chimiques, 6 vols. 4to, 1801-2 ; Memoires et Observations de Chimie, 8vo, 1784; L'Art de connattre et d'employer les Medicamens dans les Maladies, 2 vols. 8vo, 1785 ; Essai sur le Phlogistique et les Acides, 8vo, 788, from the English of Kirwan, with notes by De Morveau and De Fourcroy ; Philosophic Chimique, Ott Verites fondamentales de la Chimie modern, 8vo, 1795, perhaps his best work, of which several editions and translations appeared ; Notice sur to Vie et les Travaux de Lavoisier, 8vo, 1796; Tableaux synoptiques de Chimie, 4to, 1800; Discours stir I' Instruction pub8vo, 1802. He was the author of more than 160 papers on chemical subjects, contributed to the Memoires of the Academy and the Institute, the Annales de Chimie, and the Annles de Music d Ilistoire Naturelle, and was editor of Le Afedecin Eclaire. The more important of his later researches were published jointly in his own namo and that of Vanquelin, whom he befriended, and was the means of first bringing into notice.