Cadet De Vaux (or Cadet-Devaux or Cadet Le Jeune), Antoine-Alexis-François

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Cadet De Vaux (or Cadet-Devaux or Cadet Le Jeune), Antoine-Alexis-François

(b. Paris, France, 11 January 1743; d. No gent-les-Vierges, France, 29 June 1828),

chemistry, agriculture, nutrition, public health.

Following the example of his older brother, Louis-Claude Cadet, Cadet de Vaux was first apprenticed to the philanthropist Piarron de Chamousset and in 1759 replaced the elder Cadet as apothicaire-major at the Hôtel Royal des Invalides. From 1769 to 1781 he practiced pharmacy on the rue St, Antoine. In 1777 he became one of the cofounders of the first daily newspaper in Paris, Le journal de Paris, which threw its support during the Revolution to the Club des Feuillants and its leaders: Barnave, Lafayette, Bailly, André Chénier, and Mirabeau. This resulted in the sacking of the Journal offices in 1792 by Jacobin sympathizers.

Many of Cadet de Vaux’s activities before the Revolution were concerned with the disinfection of cess-pools and wells, the reform of sanitary conditions in prisons, industrial hygiene, and the removal of cemeteries from the center of Paris, particularly the Cimetière des Innocents. In 1787 Cadet de Vaux and his brother Louis-Claude were elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society. Cadet de Vaux’s letters to Benjamin Franklin, now in the possession of the American Philosophical Society, reflect not only a friendship with Franklin, who then lived in Passy, but also some of Cadet de Vaux’s major interests at that time, such as Franklin’s stove, publication of correspondence by Franklin in the Journal de Paris, Montgolfier’s balloon, ‘Indian corn, experiments on the preservation of wheat and flour, breadmaking, and the École de Boulangerie, which Cadet de Vaux and Parmentier had been instrumental in founding in 1780. Cadet de Vaux was active in local politics for a short time, serving from 1791 to 1792 as president of the department of Seine-et-Oise. His close friendship with Parmentier, who had succeeded him in 1766 at the Invalides, led to a fruitful collaboration over the years. In 1820 he was elected a member of the Academy of Medicine in Paris.

From the beginning of his career Cadet de Vaux had a strong interest in chemistry and science, which he sought to apply to such fields as agriculture, nutrition, and public health. In 1771 and 1772 he taught chemistry at the Royal Veterinary School in Alfort, and in 1770 he produced an annotated French translation of Jacob Reinbold Spielmann’s Institutioneschemiae. It was also primarily as a chemist that Cadet de Vaux, along with his colleagues Laborie and Parmentier, was invited by the French government to recommend safe methods for cleaning out cesspools, a hazardous occupation frequently resulting in workers’ being overcome, sometimes fatally, by noxious gases. Their findings, in which they recommended, among other things, the use of quicklime, a ventilator, and furnaces, were presented by Cadet de Vaux in, 1788 before the Royal Academy of Sciences and reported on favorably the same year by Lavoisier, Milly, and Fougeroux de Bondaroy. In 1783 Cadet de Vaux and his two colleagues gave similar advice in connection with large-scale disinterments in the northern port city of Dunkerque.

Chiefly because of his chemical expertise, Cadet de Vaux was admitted to membership in the Society of Agriculture in 1785; there, in 1789, he and Fourcroy jointly issued an enthusiastic report on Lavoisier’s Traité éliméntaire de chimie. At the École de Boulangerie, where Cadet de Vaux and Parmentier were professors, their lectures dealt with such subjects as the analysis of wheat and flour, methods of preservation, and the technology of baking.

In 1788 Cadet de Vaux purchased an estate in Fraconville, not far from Paris, where he spent most of the remaining forty years of his life. His multifarious projects during these four decades included agriculture (methods for preserving crops, prevention of mole infestation, cultivation of fruit and tobacco, extraction of sugar from sugar beets, and forest conservation) and home economics and nutrition (paints, steam laundries, disinfection of walls, winemaking, potato bread, coffee, gelatin and bouillon, and soup ḳitchens for the poor).

A product of the Enlightenment, utilitarian in his scientific outlook, Cadet de Vaux numbered among his friends Benjamin Franklin, Condorcet, and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, with all of whom he shared many interests.


I. Original Works. Of the numerous publications by Cadet de Vaux, the following are representative: Instituts de chymie de M. Jacques-Reinbold Spielmann… traduits du latin, sur la 2e édition, par M. Cadet le jeune,… 2 vols. (Paris, 1770); Observations sur les fosses d’aisance,…par MM. Laborie, Cadet le jeune et Parmentier,… (Paris,1778); Discours prononcés a l’ouverture de l’École gratuite de boulangerie, le 8 juin 1780, par MM. Parmentier et Cadet de Vaux… (Paris, 1780); Mémoire historique et physique sur le cimetière des Innocents… lu à l’Académie royale des sciences en 1781… (n.p., n.d.); “Rapport de MM. Laborie, Parmentier et Cadet de Vaux, relatif à l’exhumation des cadavres d’une partie de l’Église paroissiale de Saint É loyde Dunkerque,” in Recueil des pièces concernant les exhumations faites dans l’enceinte de lÉglise de Saint Éloy de la ville de Dunkerque (Paris, 1783); Recueil de rapports, de memoires et d’expériences sur les soupes économiques et les fourneaux à la Rumford… par les citoyens Cadet-Devaux, Decandolle, Delessert, Money et Parmentier (Paris, 1801); Instruction populaire sur le blanchissage domestique à la vapeur… (Paris, 1805); Dissertation sur le café…(Paris,1806); Traité de la culture du tabac et de la préparation de sa feuille… (Paris, 1810); Aperçu économique et chimiquesur l’extraction des betteraves… (Paris, 1811); Moyens de prévenir le retour des disettes… (Paris, 1812); Des bases alimentaires et de la pomme de terre… (Paris, 1813}; Dela gélatine des os et de son bouillon… (Paris., 1818); and L’art oenologique réduit à la simplicité de la nature par la science et l’expérience… (Paris, 1823).

For the enthusiastic report by Cadet de Vaux and Fourcroy on the chemical theories and nomenclature of Lavoisier, see “Extrait des registres de la Société royale d’agri-culture du 5 février 1789,” in A. L, Lavoisier, Traité élémentaire de chimie, II (Paris, 1789), 650–653. The letters of Cadet de Vaux to Benjamin Franklin are cited in Calendar of Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, I. Minis Hays, ed., 5 vols. (Philadelphia, 1908). More extensive listings of Cadet de Vaux’s publications will be found in Nouvelle biographi egénérale, VII (Paris, 1843), 69–70; and Catalogue géné raldes livres imprimés de la Bibliothéque nationale, XXII (Paris. 1928). 194–203.

II. Secondary Literature A comprehensive account of Cadet’s life and work is André Vaquier. “Un philanthrope méconnu Cadet de Vaux (1743–1828),” in Paris et Île-de-France, vol. IX in the series Mémoires de la Fédé ra-tion des Sociétés Historiques et Archéologiques de Paris et de l’Île-de-France (Paris, 1958) pp. 365–467. See also 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): 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. For an excellent study of the important contributions made by Cadet de Vaux and Parmentier to the École de Boulangerie, see Arthur Birembaut. “L’École gratuite de boulangerie,” in René Taton, ed., Enseignement et diffusion des sciences en France au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1964), pp. 493–509.

Alex Berman