We have here a dynamite resource for a very few. Produced by the staff at the military archives, Service Historique de la Défense (SHD) at the Chateau de Vincennes, it is a wondrous biographical dictionary of all of the medical officers of the French navy, from 1666 to World War II.
Assisting the archivists in the research and writing of the tome were medical historians, military historians and doctors. Using the numerous records and personnel and pension files in the SHD, collections in the Archives Nationales, many other archival sources, as well as various publications, they have given for each person as complete a biography and career history as possible. The types of officers covered include:
- surgeons' assistants
- health inspectors
- port health officers
- regional naval health officers
To be sure, in spite of the extreme dates covered, the majority are from the nineteenth century. In many cases, there are photographs of the individual, or of other artworks representing him, e.g. a bust, statue, portrait. In some cases, the entry is only a line or two, giving only birth and death, or even less. In others, the entries run to two or three pages. The average length is about half a page, or 400 to 500 words, a nicely sized essay. Each entry has full source citations. The scholarship of the authors is apparent, for the meaning of medical contributions and difficulties is put in historical context and explained. Appendices give the lists of health officers, with dates, for each major port.
The book is expensive, at 30€, and weighty. However, should one of your ancestors have been a medical man in the navy, obtaining a copy of the entry about him could be of great help in furthering your research.
Even Stephen Maturin would have been impressed.
Dictionnaire des médecins, chirurgiens et pharmaciens de la Marine
Bernard Brisou and Michel Sardet, editors
Service Historique de la Défense : Paris, 2010
©2011 Anne Morddel