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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878) was a French scientist and politician known for his opposition to the French monarchy and for his scientific work in the fields of histochemistry, cellular theory and the microbial theory of disease. During his life, he was a "tutor, experimental scientist, republican organizer, orator, author, medical practitioner, scientific populizer, presidential candidate, and deputy," (Weiner, page 290).
Raspail was born in Carpentras in January 25, 1794, the son of Joseph and Marie Laty Raspail. He was educated as a theologian, but due to the White Terror of 1816, he fled to Paris where he quickly became involved with the Freemasons and the Carbonari, an Italian secret society. Early in his career, he worked as a teacher while studying botany and chemistry. Some of his scientific accomplishments include discoveries in the studies of cell structure, microbial theory of disease and microscopy. He is also known as the inventor of histochemistry. He was a prolific writer of articles on the sciences, and on specific topics such as botany, chemistry, forensic medicine, microscopic anatomy, paleontology, physiology, and zoology.
In medicine, Raspail was primarily interested in public health, believing that illness and poverty were linked, that medical care was frequently too expensive for the masses, and "that sanitary measures could help prevent disease," (Weiner, page 5). Despite his refusal to obtain a degree in medicine and his arrest for the illegal practice of medicine in 1846, his medical practice was large and prosperous. Moreover, "his books and pamphlets [sold] by the thousands, and throngs of patients [came] to his dispensary for free medicines and advice," (Weiner, page 135). Revolutionary in his social theories and determined that health should be a citizen's right, Raspail believed that society should "provide for the handicapped, infants, the needy aged, widows, orphans and foundlings," (Weiner, page 5). He was a proponent of the use of camphor for its antiseptic and hygeinic qualities and for its usefulness battling contagious diseases.
Raspail rebelled against the French monarchy, and at the beginning of Louis Philippe's reign in 1830, his involvement in politics, particularly socialist-democratic politics, grew, but "as a democrat and a socialist, restless under discriminating laws, he chafed at the slowness of social reform," (Weiner, page 4). He was imprisoned in 1836 at Sainte-Pelagie, serving time for "alleged political subversion," (Weiner, page 158) and during his time in prison, he began writing popular science books. Indeed, "in the 1840s, he broadened his objectives and advocated popular and governmental involvement in sanitation and preventative medicince," (Weiner, page 3). Although deeply interested in revolution and dramatic changes in politics, Raspail, "never advocated bloodshed," (Weiner, page 11). Instead, Raspail became known as a "radical orator and publicist who had been prosecuted repeatedly for revolutionary activity," (Weiner, page 135) and his political struggles continued throughout the 1840s. He was arrested as a leader "of the protest march on the Constituent Assembly" (Weiner, page 5) in the attempted revolt of May 15, 1848; and despite his imprisonment, he ran for presidency against Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte in December of 1848. In March 1849, he was again sent to prison where he was held until 1851, when his sentence was changed from imprisonment to exile in Belgium.
After his return in 1862, Raspail was elected "a deputy from 1869 to 1870 and again from 1876 to 1878," (Ackerknecht, page 340), during the French Third Republic. As a legislator, he was finally able to "promote freedom and health jointly," (Weiner, page 3). Towards the end of his life, Raspail was largely concerned with social medicine, in particular the "fight against epidemic diseases, [and] for prison reform and the like," (Ackerknecht, page 340). According to Weiner, "his lasting achievement was that he helped create a receptive attitude toward health measures among a wide French audience [and] he accustomed them to the view that health and hygiene, private and public, were but one aspect of their inalienable rights," (page 269). His wife Henriette Adelaïde Troussot ( 1802-1853) and he were the parents of five children; and his four sons, Benjamin, Émile, François and Xavier, were prominent in politics during the French Third Republic, carrying on their father's involment in politics.
Raspail died of pneumonia in Paris on January 7, 1878. More than 100,000 people, including workers and governmental officials, attended his funeral. During his eventful life, he "wrestled with problems of public health and social medicine that to this day have not been solved," (Weiner, page 3).
This volume of Opuscules divers, dating from 1822 to 1880, consists of an incomplete table of contents and twenty items, including pamphlets, notes, and newspaper clippings about François-Vincent Raspail bound together.
There are thirteen published pamphlets containing three biographical sketches; two articles describing Raspail's political qualifications, and two articles about Raspail's library. The last of these articles was published before his library was sold in 1880. Included also are four political speeches and two articles about science written by Raspail.
Of particular note may be a fascimile note written by Raspail in 1848 attached to the first item in the collection. Although much of this note is illegible, it appears that it was written for a speech during Raspail's candidacy for presidency of the French Second Republic in December 1848.
One poem titled "Feu Raspail," was written by Albert Millaud and published in Petite némésis, a collection of poems. Finally, there are six newspaper clippings: one is dated 1874, one is a portrait of Raspail, three were published on the occasion of Raspail's death in 1878, and one is about the sale of his library in 1880.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.