Biography of Francois-Emanuel Fodéré
Although this important physician was of humble origin, born to poor conditions, his talent was discovered so early that he was able to attend schools and universities. He received his first scientific education at the school in Chambry, then went to Torino for his medical education. Due to the protection of his benefactor, the Chevalier de Saint-Réal, the manager of the Maurienne, he was able obtain a free position. Already here he distinguished himself through scientific zeal, which was particularly directed towards investigations of cretinism. As the sectioning of human bodies was still considered a profanation, he had the body of a cretin exhumed in secrecy and sectioned it. The results of his investigations are still worth reading. They were published in 1790, three years after he was conferred doctor of medicine - April 12, 1787.
Through his outstanding testimonials he won the attention of king Victor Amadeus III, who sent him on a three year study trip abroad, first to Paris, then to London. On return Fodéré concerned himself intensively with forensic medicine and judicial pharmacology, an affort that soon earned him the position of a sworn expert on forensic medicine in the province of Aosta.
As Savoy was occupied by the French army two years later, he joined the army and participated in the campaign as a military field physician. In 1793 the army returned to Marseille, and Fodéré was ordered to serve with the Alpine Army for some time, but soon after he was appointed physician to the Hospice d’humanité as well as the lunatic asylum in Marseille. Besides this he devoted himself to forensic medicine and social medicine, rather chaotic and neglected fields of medicine in Italy at that time.
Fodéré’s first book in this field, published in 1795, was no success. However, in 1798 he published his major work Les lois éclaires . . . which was enthusiastically received by the medical community, earning him the title of doyen of forensic medicine in France.
Besides his official duties and literary activity, he eagerly pursued his medical practice and his teaching, as professor of chemistry and physics in Nizza. After the closing of the school he took over the directorship and the chair of philosophy at the secondary school in that town, and was appointed physician to the city civilian and military hospital, where he introduced lectures on anatomy and physiologie.
In 1803 the government assigned him the working out of a statistics for the Département des Alpes Maritimes, a comprehensive and demanding task which he fulfilled with great sacrifices. The following year he became a member of the jury of the public educational system and of the medical collegium of the said department, and soon after was appointed physician to the Hôtel-Dieu and the lunatic asylum in Marseille.
He held these and other positions for ten years, while at the same time being active as secretary to the medical society of Marseille. In 1814, after passing concourses with flying colours, he was called to the professorship of Medicina forensis in Strasbourg. Soon afterward he was appointed president of the medical jury of the Arondissement and vice president of the Conseil de salubrité publique. He distinguished as physician to the Royal Collegium and, in 1819, after retiring from his teaching chairs, he was entrusted the lectures on the history of epidemic diseases and hygiene.
He remained at this university for twenty years. However, his last years were literally darkened by a severe eye disturbance that impaired his ability to read and write. Despite this he never gave up his activity, having his daughter as a secretary. His elder son became a cantonal advisor in the Département du Haut-Rhin, the younger became a medical practitioner. During his last months Fodéré observed the appearances of a severe illness of which he had no illusions.