- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Augustin Marie Morvan

Born 1819-02-07
Died 1897-03-20

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French physician, born February 7, 1819, Foz-Nevez, part of the city of Lannilis, département Finistère; died March 20, 1897, Douarnenez.

Biography of Augustin Marie Morvan

Augustin Marie Morvan was the eldest of eight children born to Jean-Marie and Louise Marie Prudence, née Floch, agriculturists in Lannilis. He attended primary and secondary school at the college in Lesneven and began his medical studies at the l'Ecole de Médecine de la Marine in Brest. he was named a Marine surgeon on 18 June 1839, but resigned a few months later as he was unable to tolerate seasickness!

He completed his training in Paris becoming an interne des Hôpitaux de Paris in 1843 along with Ludger Lunier (1822-1885) and Paul Broca (1824-1880). He worked under Auguste Nélaton (1807-1873), and on March 11, 1847, he defended his doctoral thesis, entitled "Varicose aneurism" (De l’anévrysme variqueux). Following his internship, Morvan left Paris for Lannilis, then a city of some 3000 inhabitants, surrounded by a densely populated countryside.

Besides his medical practice, Morvan was active in politics, and in 1871 was a deputy to the legislative assembly – inaugurating the 3rd republic.

He quickly established a reputation and his fellow citizens pressed him to become mayor, then a regional administrator in 1857. In 1871, he was elected Deputy for the Finistère region under the new Third Republic, as part of a group known as the "Republican list for order and peace". Famous for only providing free medical care during his term as Deputy, Morvan voted for the resignation of Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) and supported the legalisation of civil funerals. But he is most associated with the Morvan-Roussel law, the first concerned with the protection of children in a difficult life situation and of children who became mothers.

His legislation also led to the law on obligatory public assistance (anonymous, 1897; Le Gallo, 1992; Létienne, 1897; Robert, 1889). Despite striving only to ease suffering and correct injustice, this distinguished practitioner was constantly confronted with the superstitions of his patients and pressure from clergy. He was also subject to defamation and hostile acts, some taking place in front of his home. An example of the slogans attacking him: "People of Lannilis, you have elected an unworthy mayor, you have voted for a defender of prostitutes. Doctor Augustin Morvan of Lannilis is the father of prostitutess" (Desse,1957). Undoubtedly because of this defamation, he was not reelected and stopped his political activities. Nonetheless until the end of his life, he doctored tirelessly. He was known throughout Brittany – "An aotrou Morvan" or Monsieur Morvan – pronounced with fervour and respect by countless patients.

Morvan’s funeral service brought together an immense crowd of peasants, colleagues and important figures in Brittany. All the speeches given that day bear witness to his flawless devotion, his far-reaching reputation and his extensive medical knowledge, gained over 45 years of practice.

In Brest the Hôpital Augustin Morvan and the Rue Augustin Morvan are named for him.

We thank Dr. Olivier Walusinksi, and Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland,for information submitted.

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