Views & Reviews Past Caring

Remedy for all the inconveniences of life

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 27 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8637
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

Poverty was widespread, unemployment rising, and ill health spiralling out of control. But in the face of overwhelming odds and establishment opposition, one man came up with a visionary idea: free medical care for all in need. The time was early 17th century France; the pioneer was a physician named Théophraste Renaudot.

Born in Loudun to Protestant parents, Renaudot (1586-1653) gained his medical degree at Montpellier in 1606. As a physician he was well placed to grow rich by dosing wealthy clients with the customary toxic potions and purges. But Renaudot disdained Galenic theory in favour of the new chemical medicines and supplemented his university education by studying the …

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