Jacques Dubois  

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For the Dutch physician, see Franciscus Sylvius (Franciscus de le Boe).

Jacques Dubois (1478 – 14 January, 1555), also known as Jacobus Sylvius in Latin, was a French anatomist in Paris.

Early grammar of French

Dubois was the author of the first grammar of the French language to be published in France. The title of this work was In linguam gallicam isagōge, una cum eiusdem Grammatica latino-gallica, ex hebræis, græcis et latinis authoribus [Introduction to the French language, with a Latin-French grammar of the same, based on Hebrew, Greek and Latin authors], published in Paris in early 1531, less than a year after the very first French grammar, by John Palsgrave, was published in London.

Late career in medicine

In Paris, he studied languages and mathematics; but feeling that the rewards were inadequate, Dubois switched to medicine. At the age of 51 he acquired a medical degree at the University of Montpellier, and returned to Paris to teach anatomy in the college of Tréguier. When Vidus Vidius departed for Italy, he was appointed to succeed him as professor of surgery to the Royal College. He was an admirer of Galen, and interpreted the anatomical and physiological writings of that author in preference to giving demonstrations from the subject.

Frustrations of his pupils

Vesalius, who was his (frustrated) 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 Dubois' anatomical theatre. The carcases of dogs and other animals were the materials from which he taught. It was so difficult to obtain human bones, that Vesalius and his fellow-students had to collect them themselves from the Cimetière des Innocents and other cemeteries. Without these, they must have committed numerous errors in acquiring the first principles.

Though Jean Riolan (1577–1657) contradicted these comments and accused Vesalius of ungratitude, it is certain that the frustrations that Vesalius experienced were the basis for which he later traveled to Padua and became a famous anatomist himself. Only in Italy were the opportunities of inspecting the human body frequent enough as to facilitate the study of the science. This period was a time of fierce debate between Galenists and the new body of thought on anatomy. The conservative Riolan attacked William Harvey with equal fervour.

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