Cadet De Gassicourt (or Cadet), Charles-Louis

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Cadet De Gassicourt (or Cadet), Charles-Louis

(b. Paris, France, 23 January 1769; d. Paris, 21 November 1821),

chemistry, public health.

The natural son of Louis XV and Marie-Thérèse Boisselet, wife of Louis-Claude Cadet, Charles-Louis received his preliminary education at the Collège Mazarin. As a youth he was introduced to many distinguished scientists who visited the home of the elder Cadet, such as Joseph Lalande, d’Alembert, Condorcet, Fourcroy, Bailly, and Vicq d’Azyr. Although Cadet studied law and subsequently engaged in its practice, his main interests appear to have been literary, political, and scientific. When, in 1787, Fourcroy began his lectures at the Lycée on the rue de Valois, Cadet soon became one of his most ardent students and an enthusiastic partisan of the New Chemistry. Cadet took a prominent part in the insurrection of 13 Vendémiaire an IV (5 October, 1795) against the Convention and for a time was forced into hiding. Upon the death of the elder Cadet in 1799, Charles-Louis decided to abandon the profession of law for that of pharmacy; and in 1800 he qualified as a pharmacist. Partly because of the distinction of the Cadet name but mainly because of his own exceptional talents, he quickly emerged as one of the most important leaders in pharmaceutical circles and was one of the founders, in 1809, of the influential Bulletin de pharmacie. Appointed pharmacist to Napoleon, he was present at the battle of Wagram in 1809 and shortly after was awarded the order of Chevalier of the Empire. In 1821 Cadet was admitted to the Academy of Medicine.

As a scientist Cadet is noteworthy for his part in the diffusion and popularization of the New Chemistry rather than for any specific discovery. His most important work, the four-volume Dictionnaire de chimie, published in 1803 and dedicated to Fourcroy, replaced the older chemical dictionary of Macquer. Cadet’s Dictionnaire clearly elucidated the revolutionary changes that had occurred in chemistry and in chemical nomenclature. Although Cadet was a prolific writer, his scientific publications constituted only a part of his total published work, much of which dealt with literature, politics, pharmacy, and other subjects. Virtually all of his scientific writings, including some fifty articles that revealed him to be an able analytical chemist, were published after 1800.

Restless by temperament and intellectually innovative, Cadet was never at a loss for new ideas. Typical were his published suggestions for the application of science to national defense, as well as his ideas regarding the creation of an Institut Nomade that would travel around France to promote scientific, technological, and industrial development. None of his suggestions had any noticeable influence. On the other hand, it was at his suggestion that a health council (conseil de salubrité) was organized for Paris in 1802 and subsequently dealt with a great number of health problems: disinfection, resuscitation, industrial hygiene, medical statistics, food adulteration, sewage, epidemics, and a host of other health concerns. Cadet was an active member of this council, which became a model for similar health councils established in other French cities.


I. Original Works. Cadet’s scientific papers are listed in the Royal Society of London, Catalogue of Scientific Papers (1800–1863) I (London. 1867), 752–753. In addition to his Dictionnaire de chimie (Paris, 1803), several other scientific publications are worth noting. Cadet made a bold but inconclusive attempt to study the interrelations of science in a doctoral dissertation: De l’ étude simultanée des sciences, ou dissertation sur cette proposition: Pour perfectionner une seule des sciences physiques et naturelles, it est nécessaire de connaitre la philosophic de toutes les autres (Paris, 1812). See also his Sur les moyens de destruction et de résistance que les sciences physiques pourraient offrir dans une guerre nationale…. (n.p., n.d.); and Projet d’un in stitutnomade (Paris, 1820).

II. Secondary Literature On Cadet’s life and work see J. J. Virey, “Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Charles-Louis Cadet de Gassicourt,” in Journal de pharmacie et des sciences accessoires, 8 (1822), 1–15; Eusè beSalverte, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de Charles-Louis Cadet Gassicourt… (Paris, 1822); E. Pariset, “Éloge de C.-L. Cadet de Gassicourt,” in Histoire des membres de l’Académie royale de médecine, II (Paris, 1850). 130–163; L. G. Toraude, Étude scientifique, critique et anecdotique sur les Cadet, 1695–1900 (Paris, n.d.), repr., rev., and enl. from Bulletin des sciences pharmacologiques, 6 (1902); and Alex Berman, “The Cadet Circle: Representatives of an Era in French Pharmacy,” in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 40 , no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1966), 101–111.

Alex Berman