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Duverneys Skeletons

Author(s): Anita Guerrini

Source: Isis, Vol. 94, No. 4 (December 2003), pp. 577-603
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/386383
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Duverneys Skeletons

By Anita Guerrini*


In 1730, shortly before his death, the Paris anatomist Joseph-Guichard Duverney wrote
his will, leaving his anatomical specimens to the Academie des Sciences, of which he was
a member. But the will was disputed by Pierre Chirac, supervisor of the Jardin du Roi
where Duverney, as professor of anatomy, had performed most of the dissections that
produced the specimens. The ensuing debate between Chirac and Rene-Antoine Ferchault
de Reaumur, arguing for the Academie, reveals the tensions surrounding both the concept
of intellectual property in this period and the collective enterprise in natural philosophy.
The differing roles and audiences of the Academie and the Jardin were central to this
debate. In addition, this essay explores the origins and significance of the anatomical
specimens themselves and their changing role in instruction and display, as well as the
transition from the cabinet of curiosities to the natural history museum.

W HEN THE RENOWNED PARIS ANATOMIST Joseph-Guichard Duverney drew up

his will in 1730, did he realize that he was igniting a controversy that would pit two
of the most important Parisian scientific institutions against each other in a bitter struggle
that dragged on for nearly two years? Duverney had been professor of anatomy at the
Jardin du Roi in Paris, although he had retired in 1718 and had turned most dissecting
duties over to his son. He was also a member of the Paris Academie des Sciences, the
premier scientific society in France and among the most prestigious in Europe. Duverney
had performed dissections and demonstrations at both the Academie and the Jardin: at the
former for a select audience of natural philosophers and occasionally for patrons, at the
latter before a large audience of medical students and the public. Each institution paid
Duverney a yearly pension for his work. In addition, he was provided with an apartment

* Program in Environmental Studies and Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara,
California 93106-4160.
An earlier version of this essay was delivered as a keynote address at the DeBartolo Conference on Eighteenth-
Century Studies, February 2001; I am grateful to the conference participants for their comments. Thanks also to
several anonymous referees and to the editor of Isis. Funding for my research was provided by a grant from the
National Science Foundation and a fellowship from the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique. Special
thanks to Jonathan Simon, fellow habitue of anatomy museums, to the staff at the Archives of the Academie des
Sciences in Paris, and to Michael A. Osborne.

Isis, 2003, 94:577603

2003 by The History of Science Society. All rights reserved.


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at the Jardin. Various assistants helped him with dissections and with preparing anatomical
models and specimens.1
The controversy centered on these models and specimens, which numbered in the hun-
dreds and included both human and animal bodies and parts. In his will Duverney specified
that he left to the Academie his drawings on anatomy and all the pieces of anatomy and
those concerning the diseases of the bones that are in the skeleton room [salle des sque-
lettes] of the Jardin that belong to him. Duverney clarified this further in a codicil. In the
first version he had written qui lappartient, which did not specify the owner, although
from the context it was clear that Duverney meant to refer to himself. In the codicil he
left no doubt: appartenant au dit sieur testateur.2 These skeletons and other preparations,
he believed, belonged to him. But did they? The salle des squelettes belonged to the
Academie; did it also own the contents?
This essay will explore the controversy surrounding Duverneys skeletons from a num-
ber of points of view, pertaining to both the ownership of the skeletons and their intellectual
and social significance. The ownership of the skeletons was disputed because they were
considered to be important and symbolically meaningful artifacts. Krzysztof Pomian has
argued that the interplay of usefulness and meaning gives value to collections and that in
this case the usefulness and meaning of these artifacts for the two institutions differed
sharply.3 The dispute itself concerned the ownership of intellectual property. To whom did
the skeletons belong? This question had many dimensions. It was especially pertinent for
members of the Academie des Sciences, the original plan of which emphasized collective
over individual work. This emphasis had changed by the end of the seventeenth century,
however, and the controversy over Duverneys skeletons elucidates a number of tensions
inherent in the collective enterprise of natural philosophy. It also reveals the fluctuating
boundaries in this era between public and private: Duverneys laboratory was also his
home; did he therefore own its contents? How did his public role as demonstrator fit with
his role as a natural philosopher who also conducted research in private? For most of his
career, Duverney depended on the very public patronage of the absolutist state; did he
have a private life within the structure of that patronage, within which he owned the
physical artifacts of his career? If intellectual property is indeed intangible property, did
Duverneys particular expertise in the construction of skeletons and anatomical models
make them his? Can his work be compared to that of a craftsman?4

Jules Guiffrey, ed., Comptes des batiments du roi sous la re`gne de Louis XIV, 5 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie
Nationale, 18871901), passim (hereafter cited as Comptes des batiments). It should be noted that this source
extends only to 1715; Duverney retired in 1718. On the finances of the Academie des Sciences see Alice Stroup,
Royal Funding of the Parisian Academie Royale des Sciences during the 1690s (Transactions of the American
Philosophical Society, 77[4]) (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1987).
Testament, Guichard Joseph Duverney, 25 Jan. 1730, Minutier central, ET/XVII/661; and testament, Guichard
Joseph Duverney, 12 Aug. 1730, Minutier central, ET/XVII/663, Archives Nationales, Paris. (Here and else-
where, all translations are mine unless otherwise indicated.) See discussion in David J. Sturdy, Science and
Social Status: The Members of the Academie des Sciences, 16661750 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 1995),
pp. 191192.
Krzysztof Pomian, Collectors and Curiosities: Paris and Venice, 15001800, trans. Elizabeth Wiles-Portier
(Cambridge: Polity, 1990), pp. 3031.
On the definition of intellectual property see Pamela O. Long, Invention, Authorship, Intellectual Prop-
erty, and the Origin of Patents: Notes toward a Conceptual History, Technology and Culture, 1991, 32:846
884; Long, Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the
Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2001); and Liliane Hilaire-Perez, Linvention technique au
sie`cle des Lumie`res (Paris: Michel, 2000). On the distinction between public and private see Dena Goodman,
Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical Approaches to the Old Re-
gime, History and Theory, 1992, 31:120; Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French

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The skeletons also reveal tensions in the practice known as natural philosophy. What
was the intellectual significance of the skeletons to both medicine and natural philosophy,
and did this change over the course of Duverneys long career? What was the interest of
each institution in the skeletons? The Jardin du Roi emphasized medical instruction, but
the Academie was founded to promote natural philosophy. The institutions also appealed
to different audiences: the Jardins lectures and exhibits were open to all, while the Aca-
demie was much more restricted. Duverneys skeletons serve as boundary objects in that
they had different meanings for these different constituencies.5 Moreover, these meanings
changed over time. In order to shed light on the meanings of the skeletons to these differing
constituencies, this essay will examine the role of anatomy and especially of skeletons in
this period, as well as their display in natural history collections, before returning to this
specific collection and the controversy its proposed dispersal initiated.


Duverney himself is one of those historical characters who seem to evaporate after their
deaths. In his time he was possibly the best-known man of science in Paris, celebrated and
reviled in poetry and other popular literature. Much of what is known about his life comes
from the eloge written after his death by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, secretary of the
Academie. Although Fontenelle was following a particular rhetorical genre, where the
facts can be verified he appears to be accurate. Joseph-Guichard (or maybe Guichard-
Joseph) Duverney was born in 1648 in the village of Feurs in the Massif Centrale, where
his father was the doctor. He studied medicine in Avignon for five years and moved to
Paris after receiving his degree in 1667. Carrying with him a letter of introduction to the
abbe Pierre Michon Bourdelot, he soon became part of Bourdelots academy, which had
met at the hotel of the prince de Conde since 1642. Thus Duverneys career depended
from its outset on aristocratic patronage, and, as Christian Licoppe has argued, the goal
of such a practitioner of natural philosophy was as much to seduce an aristocratic public
as to impress his peers in natural philosophy.6

Enlightenment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1994), esp. Ch. 1; Anne Goldgar, Impolite Learning: Conduct
and Community in the Republic of Letters, 16801750 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1995), esp.
pp. 231232; Steven Shapin, The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-Century England, Isis, 1988, 79:373
404; and Thomas Gieryn, Biotechnologys Private Parts (and Some Public Ones), in Private Science: Bio-
technology and the Rise of the Molecular Sciences, ed. Arnold Thackray (Philadelphia: Univ. Pennsylvania Press,
1998), pp. 219253.
On boundary objects see S. L. Star and J. R. Griesemer, Institutional Ecology, Translations, and Bound-
ary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeleys Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Social Studies of Science,
1989, 19:387420.
Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson, trans. Robert
Ellrich (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1997), pp. 138140; and Christian Licoppe, La formation de la
pratique scientifique: Le discours de lexperience en France et en Angleterre (16301820) (Paris: La Decouverte,
1996), p. 46. Biographical sources on Duverney include Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Eloge de Monsieur du
Verney (hereafter cited as Fontenelle, Eloge), in Oeuvres comple`tes, ed. Alain Niderst, Vol. 7 (Paris: Fayard,
1996), pp. 189198; Dossier: J.-G. Du Verney, Archives, Academie des Sciences, Paris; J. Ory, G. J. P. Du
Verney, enfant de Feurs: Le plus grand anatomiste du XVIIe sie`cle (Montbrison: Brassart, 1892); Georges Bar-
ritault, Lanatomie en France au XVIIIe sie`cle: Les anatomistes du Jardin du Roi (Angers: Limprimerie dAnjou,
1940); Lucie Roule, Les medecins du Jardin du Roi aux XVII et XVIIIe sie`cles (Paris: Foulon, 1942); Jean
Renaud, Les communautes de maitre chirurgiens avant la Revolution de 1789 en Forez . . . avec une notice sur
Joseph Guichard Duverney, anatomiste (16481730) (Saint-Etienne: Editions du Chevalier, [1946]); Wesley C.
Williams, Joseph-Guichard Duverney, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. Charles C. Gillispie, 18 vols.
(New York: Scribner, 19701990), Vol. 4, pp. 267268; and Sturdy, Science and Social Status (cit. n. 2),
pp. 189192.

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Duverney emerges as a precocious figure; only nineteen, he dissected a human brain, a

difficult and delicate operation, before Bourdelots group.7 He was then invited to do
regular demonstrations for Bourdelots academy and commenced a career as an anatomist.
In this era of great discoveries in experimental anatomy, Duverney duplicated the exper-
iments of Nicolaus Steno, Jan Swammerdam, and Regnier de Graaf before the group;
according to Fontenelle, he soon gained a reputation. Duverney had a passion for dis-
section and performed not only at Bourdelots academy but at the home of the physician
Jean-Baptiste Denis, who was himself well known for his blood-transfusion experiments.8
Through Bourdelot, Duverney met the physician Claude Perrault, a founding member
of the Academie. In 1667 Perrault inaugurated a collective research project on animal
anatomy that produced several pamphlets and, ultimately, two large and beautifully illus-
trated folio volumes of descriptions, known as the Memoires pour servir a` lhistoire na-
turelle des animaux, issued in 1671 and 1676. (See Figure 1.) In the early 1670s Duverney
succeeded the Academie anatomists Louis Gayant and Jean Pecquet as dissector for this
project.9 In 1676 he was named a member of the Academie, and in 1682 he was appointed
professor of anatomy at the Jardin du Roi, although he had begun to lecture there in 1680.
His passion for dissection was well served at the Academie and, later, at the Jardin; in the
Academies minutes for 1679, for example, Duverney was reported to continue his ana-
tomical dissections with much application, on animals ranging from a tigress, an eagle,
an ibis, and a porcupine down to frogs, snails, and insects.10
The Academies emphasis on collective publication is evident in works such as the
Memoires pour servir a` lhistoire naturelle des animaux, which was a compilation of the
work of several academicians. Even Perrault, whose name appeared on the title page of
the 1676 volume, is credited merely as a compiler, not as an author. But by the 1680s, and
increasingly, many individual members published outside the auspices of the Academie.
Owing to diminished finances, the Academie downsized considerably after 1683, and large
collective projects fell into disfavor; the projected third volume of the Histoire des animaux
never appeared.11

A few years earlier, the dissection of a brain by the Danish savant Nicolaus Steno at the academy of Mel-
chisedech Thevenot had been much celebrated; see Ole J. Rafaelsen, Stenos Lecture on the Anatomy of the
Brain: A Flash of Light in the Dark, in Nicolaus Steno, 16381686, ed. J. E. Poulsen and Egill Snorrason
(Gentofte, Denmark: Nordisk Insulin Laboratorium, 1986), pp. 135151. Thomas Willis published his Anatomy
of the Brain in 1664; see Robert L. Martensen, Habit of Reason: Anatomy and Anglicanism in Restoration
England, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1992, 66:511535.
Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 189; and Roger, Life Sciences (cit. n. 6), p. 140. Denis was a protege of Jean-Baptiste
Colbert. On the definition of experimental anatomy (what we would now call physiology) in this era see Andrew
Cunningham, The Pen and the Sword: Recovering the Disciplinary Identity of Physiology and Anatomy before
1800, Pts. 1 and 2, Studies in History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 2002, 33:
63165, 2003, 34:5176.
Claude Perrault, Memoires pour servir a lhistoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676),
Avertissement; and Joseph Schiller, Les laboratoires danatomie et de botanique a` lAcademie des Sciences
au XVIIe sie`cle, Revue dHistoire des Sciences, 1964, 17:97114, esp. p. 105. On the publication history of
the Memoires see F. J. Cole, A History of Comparative Anatomy (1949; rpt., New York: Dover, 1975), pp. 396
397; on the project more generally see Antoine Picon, Claude Perrault; ou, La curiosite dun classique ([Paris]:
Picard, 1988), pp. 4174.
On Academie membership and the appointment at the Jardin see Fontenelle, Eloge, pp. 190192. Du-
verneys letter of appointment, dated 23 Mar. 1682, is O1 26, p. 71v (original), AJ/15/509, fol. 205 (copy),
Archives Nationales. Comptes des batiments, Vol. 2, col. 221, under Jardin du Roi, notes payment au Sr du
Verney, demonstrateur, pour ses gages des annees 1680, 1681, et 1682. For the report on Duverneys dissections
see Proce`s verbaux, 21 June 1679, Academie des Sciences, Registre de Physique, Vol. 8 (2 Jan. 16756 Sept.
1679), p. 212, Archives, Academie des Sciences.
The full title page reads as follows: Memoires pour servir a lhistoire naturelle des animaux: Dressez par

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Figure 1. Indian tortoise (grande tortue des Indes). From Claude Perrault, Memoires pour servir a
lhistoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676). Duverney dissected this animal and
wrote the description in the Memoires. LeClerc pictured it in an idealized garden. (Courtesy Linda Hall
Library of Science, Engineering, and Technology.)

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Duverney published little under his own name.
While the Academies emphasis on joint projects may initially have discouraged him from
publishing as an individual, personal factors were also at work. Duverney inherited Per-

M. Perrault, de lAcademie Royale des Sciences, et Medecin de la Faculte de Paris. For a detailed study of
another collective project of the Academie see Alice Stroup, A Company of Scientists: Botany, Patronage, and
Community in the Seventeenth-Century Parisian Royal Academy of Sciences (Berkeley: Univ. California Press,
1990) (hereafter cited as Stroup, Company of Scientists), esp. pp. 6988; the nonappearance of the third volume
of the Histoire des animaux is discussed on pp. 5455.

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raults papers on the Histoire des animaux project and purchased a manuscript by Swam-
merdam, but he failed to publish anything on either of these sources. His own manuscripts
reveal him to have been a tireless reviser and re-reviser: countless scribbled-over drafts
survive in the archives of the Academie des Sciences. His son Emmanuel-Maurice, who
published his collected works in 1761, referred to his extre`me delicatesse. Never, said
the son, was his father satisfied that he had truly mastered a topic, and from this perspective
it was surprising that he published anything at all. After 1699 Duverney contributed papers
to the Memoires of the academy, and he is frequently mentioned before 1699 in the His-
toire, but his one book-length publication was his treatise on the ear, published in 1683.
His obscurity today owes much to his failure to publish, but it also reflects the changed
status of anatomy after his death. The Jardins medical functions soon became overshad-
owed by Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffons emphasis on natural history, and the kind of
anatomy Duverney performed was superseded by experimental physiology by the end of
the eighteenth century. By the time his son published his collected works, Duverneys time
was already passing.12
After Perraults death in 1688, Duverney became chief anatomist at the Academie des
Sciences. He retired from the Jardin du Roi in 1718 and from the Academie in 1725. He
died in 1730 at the age of eighty-two; according to Fontenelle, his health had been un-
dermined by long damp nights spent at the Jardin observing snails.13


In his will Duverney left the skeletons and preparations at the Jardin that belonged to
him to the Academie. The Academie made an inventory of the collection in the salle des
squelettes in the early 1730s. A second inventory of 1756 lists what seems to be the same
collection, now at the Academie, where the items in question appear to follow the same
arrangement as at the Jardin, possibly even in the same cabinets and armoires.14 Duverney
died shortly after he signed his second will in the autumn of 1730. Almost immediately,
controversy arose over the skeletons. Pierre Chirac (16481732), the intendant (supervi-
sor) of the Jardin, wrote a lengthy memorandum to the Academie in the spring of 1731,
contesting the disposition of all of the skeletons. He was answered by Rene-Antoine Fer-
chault de Reaumur (16831757), an officer of the Academie and one of the best-known
men of science in France. It quickly became apparent that the dispute between these two
men concerned more than bones.15
Oeuvres anatomiques de M. Duverney, [ed. E. M. Duverney], 2 vols. (Paris: Jombert, 1761), Avertissement
de lEditeur, p. iv. On the Jardin after Duverney see E. C. Spary, Utopias Garden: French Natural History
from the Old Regime to the Revolution (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 2000); on the changed status of anatomy
see Cunningham, Pen and the Sword, Pt. 2 (cit. n. 8).
Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 198. Fontenelle claims that Duverneys health was feeble almost throughout his life,
but since he was eighty-two when he died one must question this judgment.
Inventaire des pieces danatomie contenues dans le cabinet qui appartient a` lAcademie Royalle des Siences
[sic], chiffrees et verifiees. Par M. Morand, Pochette de seance, 1756, Archives, Academie des Sciences (Au
Jardin du Roy is noted in the margin; not dated, but ca. 1732). See comte de Maurepas to labbe Bignon,
Versailles, 3 Mar. 1732, Pochette de seance, Mar. 1732, Archives, Academie des Sciences, which notes that
Morand has been charged with compiling an inventory. The second inventory is also contained in the 1756
Pochette de seance: Inventaire des pieces danatomie qui appartiennent a lAcademie Royalle des Siences [sic],
transportees au Vieux Louvre . . .
The texts of the memoranda of Chirac and Reaumur, as well as the Academies formal reply to Chirac, are
contained in Pochette de seance, Apr. 1731, Archives, Academie des Sciences. For Reaumurs copies of these
documents, as well as a draft of his reply, see AJ/15/512/A13, folder 490, Archives Nationales; transcriptions
are in Camille Fremontier, Le cabinet de lAcademie des sciences (16661864) (M.A. thesis, Univ. Paris IV
Sorbonne, 19931994), App. 1, pp. 127132 (a copy of this thesis is in the Archives of the Academie des

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In his memorandum Chirac argued that Duverney willed the contents of the salle des
squelettes to the Academie under the pretext that he, Duverney, had himself made and
mounted the skeletons. But, said Chirac, this was not true: most of the skeletons were
made by order of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the kings minister, and the dissections were
performed by Claude Perrault on specimens provided by the royal menagerie. Therefore
the skeletons belonged to the king, not to Duverney. In any case, maintained Chirac,
Duverney was paid for whatever work he did and his pension of 500 livres was meant to
reimburse his expenses, so he had no right to dispose of the skeletons: they were not his
to dispose of. They belonged to the king, and the king wanted them to be at the Jardin.16
Chiracs position at the Jardin was precarious in 1731. He had been appointed intendant
in 1718, following the death of Guy-Crescent Fagon. Chirac was physician to the regent,
the duc dOrleans, and thus gained the intendance in his capacity as royal physician; he
retained the post even after his patron died in 1723. By the late 1720s, however, Chiracs
leadership at the Jardin was called into question; a re`glement (royal order) from 1729
accused him of severely neglecting the Jardin and laid down fifteen rules he must follow,
the first of which was showing up once a month to inspect. A lengthy memo from about
the same time details the disarray at the Jardin.17 Thus Chiracs anxiety about retaining
the skeletons was probably connected with his fear of losing control over the Jardin.
Reaumur replied vigorously to Chiracs memorandum of 1731. Chiracs claims, he said,
were extremely unjust, a dangerous example for the progress of science.18 The skel-
etons incontestably belonged to the Academie, he insisted, and he illustrated this with
a long disquisition on the Academies history. Like Chirac, Reaumur claimed that the
majority of the skeletons were not Duverneys to give, but unlike the intendant, he stated
that Duverney knew this and that he never imagined he could leave them to the Jardin;
he always knew, said Reaumur, that they belonged to the Academie and that he was only
the depository and guardian of them. Many witnesses could state that this is how he always
spoke of them. In other words, the skeletons were firmly tied to Duverneys role in the
collective enterprise of the Academie, rather than to his much more public role at the
Reaumur claimed that Duverney referred in his will only to his own skeletons and
preparations on bone diseases, not to the entire collection: these were his works, to which
he wished to keep his right of ownership; he did not wish to have them mingled with the
skeletons of the Academie. These works, then, were the ones he wished to leave to the
Academie at his death. Chirac, he added, had been very badly informed on this matter.
Reaumurs contemptuous tone indicated Chiracs declining status; he observed that Chirac,
being from Montpellier (and therefore a provincial), was unaware of the history of the
institution he directed.
Reaumur turned next to the questions of intellectual property and authorship. Chirac
had argued that since Duverney had performed the work under the crowns pay, all of the
skeletons belonged to the crown. Reaumur argued that some of the skeletons did belong
to Duverney: the ones he had himself madethe ones on bone diseases, his specialty. If

Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes, Pochette de seance, Apr. 1731.
Re`glement concernant le jardin Royal des Plantes . . . 28 avril 1729, AJ/15/501, no. 29, Archives Na-
tionales; and Motifs pur un re`glement concernant le Jardin Royal des Plantes Medicinales de Paris, ca. 1730,
AJ/15/509, no. 290, Archives Nationales. The latter document occupies thirty-one folio sides and refers to four
pretentions made by Chirac.
Quotations over the next five paragraphs are from Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes
(cit. n. 16).

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the skeletons Duverney had prepared belonged to him, under a droit de propriete, why
didnt the others? Reaumur turned to the early history of the Academie to make his case.
Most of the skeletons, he said, were the collective work of the Academie, dating from the
time of the Histoire des animaux project of the 1670s; they were not the sole work of
Reaumur then detailed the plan for this project from the 1660s onward. The original
dissections were performed by a variety of individuals, including Perrault, Gayant, and
Pecquet as well as Duverney, and the skeletons had originally been displayed in the Bib-
liothe`que du Roithat is, the Academies original chambers. This room soon became too
small for the large number of specimens, however, and when Duverney entered the Aca-
demie, a great room at the Jardin du Roi being empty, the skeletons were transferred there,
with the permission of Colbert and the academicians. That the skeletons were transferred
to the Jardin did not, Reaumur asserted, mean that the Academie relinquished ownership
of them. By this time Duverney was a professor and lived at the Jardin, where he made
dissections without number. The Academie confided to Duverney the key to the salle
des squelettes, and there was never any question regarding ownership of the skeletons.
These are the facts, declared Reaumur. If the machines, the instruments for astron-
omy, the books, the drawings, the engravings, and all other such things belong to the
Academie, then obviously the skeletons did too, even if they were housed at the Jardin.
He saw no difference between natural objects and constructed instruments: all were tools
of the scientific enterprise. In fact, he added, the previous intendants recognized the Aca-
demies ownership. He cited a 1699 letter from Fagon, Chiracs predecessor, to the abbe
Jean-Paul Bignon, president of the Academie, in which Fagon stated that he had no inten-
tion of asking the Academie to take back the skeletons as they were fine where they were
the implication being, of course, that they did indeed belong to the Academie.
To Reaumur, it was plain that the patronage of the Academie conferred its ownership
on all of its intellectual products, whether written or constructed. This was hardly a solution
to the problem raised by Duverneys will, however. He barely mentioned Duverneys role
at the Jardin, which, while also funded by the crown, served very different, and more
public, functions than the Academie. Reaumur believed that the physical location of the
skeletons at the Jardin, and their use there, was irrelevant, as was Duverneys individual
financial, intellectual, and physical role in their collection and construction. To Reaumur,
the Academies ideal of collective work superseded all objections.
Yet Reaumur accepted, as Chirac did not, that at least some of the skeletons were
Duverneys to give. Although Reaumur contended that the collective activity of the Aca-
demie meant that most of the skeletons in the salle des squelettes belonged to that body,
he admitted that some of them belonged to Duverney. Implicitly, then, a conflict existed
between the collective activity of the Academie and the individual activity of Duverney.
The unusual nature of the bequest was all the more striking in the context of Duverneys
will, which was otherwise very conventional. He named his wife, Marie-Marguerite Neu-
net, as executrix and made several bequests to members of his extended family; the only
other specific bequests were some books on anatomy that went to another physician and
his drawings on anatomy and a manuscript of the Memoires pour servir a` lhistoire na-
turelle des animaux, also left to the Academie. None of these generated the kind of con-
troversy that surrounded the skeletons.19

Duverney testament, 12 Aug. 1730 (cit. n. 2); see the discussion in Sturdy, Science and Social Status (cit.
n. 2), pp. 191192. The bulk of Duverneys estate went by default to his only son, Emmanuel-Maurice. On wills

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The Academies own formal report, which replied to Chiracs memorandum, closely
followed Reaumurs arguments. In a double-columned rebuttal (with Chiracs memoran-
dum on the right and the Academies reply on the left), the Academie demolished Chiracs
arguments, comparing his case to that of the astronomer Gian-Domenico Cassini, whose
will did not mention the instruments he used at the Observatoire but who did leave the
Academie his personal instruments. This comparison strengthened the implicit parallel
between the skeletons and crafted objects. While emphasizing that Duverney was main-
tained throughout his career by the crown, the rebuttal did not mention that others in royal
service, such as diplomats, commonly considered their papers to be their personal property.
The rebuttal was signed by dArgenson, president of the Academie.20
Were Reaumur and the Academie right? Although Reaumur conceded that Duverney
owned a small number of the skeletons and models, both he and Chirac argued that Du-
verney could not claim ownership of all the skeletonsnot that Duverney had made such
a claim. But Reaumurs emphasis on the Histoire des animaux project ignored the fact that
the huge collection described in the 1732 inventory was not solely a result of that project.
It contained many animals not mentioned in the Histoire des animaux, and Duverney added
to the original collection over the years. Numerous descriptions of his dissections are in
the proce`s-verbaux of the Academie; the index to the Histoire et Memoires of the Academie
between 1666 and 1698 lists over a hundred species of animals, many more than were
described in the Histoire des animaux.21 After 1699 Duverney published articles in the
Memoires of the Academie on a variety of topics not obviously connected to the earlier
project. The physical remains of all those projects were part of the collection in the salle
des squelettes. Although Reaumur may have been correct in interpreting Duverneys will
as seeking to donate only the skeletons belonging to his studies of bone diseases, the
question of ownershipboth from our point of view and from Chiracsremains unre-
solved. Did the collective mission of the Academie, as Reaumur argued, supersede any
individuals labor?
Historians have established that the concepts of copyright and intellectual property were
defined with reference to written works in the eighteenth century.22 While much has been
written about intellectual property with regard to publication, little exists on the question
of property rights to natural objects. And were the items in the salle des squelettes merely
natural objects? The labor of cleaning and mounting made them also crafted objects, even
art. Presumably the compiler of a cabinet owned its contents and gained the prestige that
accrued from collecting. But who compiled this collection: Duverney, the Academie, or

in general see Anne Zink, Lheritier de la maison (Paris: Editions de lEcole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Sociales, 1993); and Margaret H. Darrow, Revolution in the House: Family, Class, and Inheritance in Southern
France, 17751825 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1989), Ch. 1.
Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes (cit. n. 16). I owe the point about the personal
papers of diplomats to Paul Sonnino; see, e.g., a 1637 letter in which this claim is made: Brasset to Chavigny,
21 Nov. 1637, Correspondance Politique Hollande, Vol. 20, fols. 243244, Archives Affaires Etrange`res, Paris.
Table alphabetique des matieres contenues dans lHistoire et les Memoires de lAcademie Royale des Sci-
ences, publiee de son ordre, Vol. 1: 16661698 (Paris: Compagnie des Libraires, 1734), pp. 1720.
Mark Rose, Authors and Owners (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1993); Michel Foucault, What
Is an Author? trans. Josue V. Harari, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984),
pp. 101120; Martha Woodmansee, The Genius and the Copyright: Economic and Legal Conditions of the
Emergence of the Author, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1984, 17:425448; and Mario Biagioli, The Instability
of Authorship: Credit and Responsibility in Contemporary Biomedicine, FASEB Journal, 1998, 12:316. How-
ever, this argument is disputed in Long, Invention, Authorship, Intellectual Property (cit. n. 4), esp. pp. 847
848; see also Domenico Bertoloni Meli, Authorship and Teamwork around the Cimento Academy: Mathematics,
Anatomy, Experimental Philosophy, Early Science and Medicine, 2001, 6:6595.

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the Jardin? To complicate matters further, Reaumur argued that the labor of Perrault,
Gayant, and Pecquet in their capacity as academicians, and not merely the Academies
acquisition of the actual specimens, was the critical factor in the Academies ownership
of the skeletons. So because Duverney was an academician, his skeletons belonged to the
Academie, no matter how he acquired them. In addition, the intellectual labor of con-
structing the Histoire des animaux publication project seems to gain more credit in these
discussions than the actual labor of dissecting. When it came to printed materials, there
was wide variation in conventions of authorship.23
The concepts of droit (rights), possession (property) and privile`ge (rights accorded by
law) were essential during the Old Regime in France.24 According to the theory of natural
law, natural rights were modified by civil laws, which created privileges for particular
individuals or groups in society. A familiar form of privilege in this era was the corporation,
which included guilds. Corporations were established by royal letters patent, which al-
lowed the establishment of an exclusive body governed internally by its own statutes. The
Academie des Sciences was organized as a corporation, although it did not officially gain
this status until 1713. Yet, as Alice Stroup has noted, natural philosophy fit awkwardly
with many seventeenth-century values, and this awkwardness was evident in the orga-
nization of the Academie, whose members earned pensionsa form of crown patronage
rather than wages and whose intellectual productions could not be traded as commodities.25
While the right of property was granted by natural law, the right of possession was
nonetheless often called into question. Individuals and corporations challenged the right
to ownership on the basis of priority, relevance, or natural right itself. The dispute over
Duverneys skeletons involved all of these arguments. The Academie argued on the basis
of priority; Chirac argued that the purpose of the skeletons was far more relevant to the
Jardin than to the Academie; and Duverney himself based his claim, it seems, on his right
of property with regard to the objects of his labor.
Reaumur and the Academie therefore claimed that the corporations right of possession
superseded that of the individual member. Membership in a corporation involved accep-
tance of certain rights and obligations, including in the case of the Academie the ideal of
collective activity. But in terms of ownership, that ideal pertained mainly to publication.
Early publications, such as the first volume of the Memoires pour servir a` lhistoire na-
turelle des animaux, gave credit to no single author. When, in the 1699 revisions of its
rules, the Academie established an imprimatur for works of academicians, it codified its
role as arbiter of truth, in the same way that guilds guaranteed the quality of the goods
produced by individual members. But as the dispute over Duverneys skeletons showed,
it was not clear how, or even that, these rules applied to objects. While the Academie
exercised its right as arbiter of truth in the case of inventions, anatomical specimens did
not precisely fit this category either. If inventions were judged by their value, what was
the value of anatomical specimens?26

Pomian, Collectors and Curiosities (cit. n. 3), pp. 3841 (on a collectors ownership and prestige); and
Bertoloni Meli, Authorship and Teamwork, p. 71 (variation in conventions of authorship).
The following discussion owes much to Michael Sonenscher, Works and Wages: Natural Law, Politics, and
the Eighteenth-Century French Trades (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 4754.
Stroup, Company of Scientists, pp. 27, 2832. See also Roger Hahn, The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution:
The Paris Academy of Sciences, 16661803 (Berkeley: Univ. California Press, 1971), p. 5; on corporations see
William H. Sewell, Work and Revolution in France: The Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848
(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 1939.
Hahn, Anatomy of a Scientific Institution, pp. 2530; Hilaire-Perez, Invention technique au sie`cle des Lu-
mie`res (cit. n. 4), pp. 4950; and Pomian, Collectors and Curiosities (cit. n. 3), pp. 4243.

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The particular circumstances pertaining to anatomical collections further complicated

the notion of ownership. Museums, as opposed to individuals cabinets, effaced individual
contributions, in terms of ownership and also of labor. When eighteenth-century collectors
such as Hans Sloane or Richard Mead purchased a collection, either of natural history or
of art, the original collector dropped from view. In the case of artwork, provenance became
important to collectors only in the nineteenth century. In addition, the individual objects
themselves became subsumed in the greater whole of the collection and its institutional
setting. Duverneys skeletons and natural history collections were composed of human and
animal bodies. Whose bodies were these? When it entered the dissecting room, the body
became an object and no longer counted as a body. The acquisition of identity by the
human and animal objects of experimental investigation is a topic outside the scope of this
essay; ethicists today are just beginning to grapple with the implications of the ownership
of human bodies and body parts.27
The crown turned down Chiracs request, and the collections at the Jardin went to the
Academie. In March 1732, Maurepas, academician and government minister, wrote to
Bignon, once again president of the Academie: the King has decided that the Academie
des Sciences will take in possession the skeletons which are on deposit at the Jardin du
Roi. The inventory had already been made, and all that remained was to transport the
collection to its new home.28 But we are left with a number of questions, not only con-
cerning ownership, but also concerning the meaning and value of Duverneys skeletons.


To understand the meaning of the skeletons, we need to go back to their origin in the
anatomical demonstration. Fontenelle credited Duverney with making anatomy a` la
mode in Paris. Before him, he wrote, anatomical demonstration took place privately,
behind the walls of the Ecole de Medecine or at Saint-Come, the surgical school. But this
was not exactly the case. (See Figure 2.) Medical botany was the ostensible topic taught
at the Jardin du Roi from its opening in 1640, but this subject soon devolved into three:
botany, chemistry, and anatomy, although chairs in the latter two subjects were not formally
named until 1695 and 1727, respectively. Marin Cureau de la Chambre began in 1643 to
deliver public lectures on human anatomy designed for medical students. The Paris Faculty
of Medicine protested this encroachment on their territory, but the king backed the Jardin
against the facultyso much so that, in 1673, a royal ordinance declared that the anatomist
at the Jardin would get the bodies of executed criminals in preference to all other claimants,
including the Faculty of Medicine. In that year the surgeon Pierre Dionis was named
anatomical demonstrator at the Jardin, and his lectures on human anatomy drew crowds
numbering in the hundreds. Among the attractions were Dioniss descriptions of the au-
topsies he had performed on well-known members of the court and aristocracy.29

On the issue of provenance in artwork see Iain Pears, The Discovery of Painting (New Haven, Conn.: Yale
Univ. Press, 1988); I thank Ann Bermingham for this reference. Regarding the ownership of bodies and body
parts see Carl F. Cranor, Patenting Body Parts: A Sketch of Some Moral Issues, in Owning Scientific and
Technical Information: Value and Ethical Issues, ed. Vivian Weil and John E. Snapper (New Brunswick, N.J.:
Rutgers Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 200212; see also the obituary for John Moore, whose case is detailed in Cronors
article: Los Angeles Times, 13 Oct. 2001, p. B16. Also relevant is Rebecca S. Eisenberg and Richard R. Nelson,
Public vs. Proprietary Science: A Fruitful Tension? Daedalus, 2002, 131(2):89101.
Maurepas to Bignon, Versailles, 3 Mar. 1732 (cit. n. 14).
Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 190. On the subjects taught at the Jardin see Yves Laissus, Le Jardin du Roi,
in Enseignement et diffusion des sciences en France au XVIIIe sie`cle, ed. Rene Taton (Paris: Hermann, 1964),

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Figure 2. Plan of the Jardin du Roi in 1640 (this remained the layout until after 1739). From J. P. F.
Deleuze, Histoire et description du Museum Royal dHistoire Naturelle, 2 vols. (Paris: Royer, 1823).
Number 1, at the far left, is the entrance to the Jardin; the amphitheater for lectures is immediately to
the left of the entrance. Exhibit space is numbered 3 and 4. (Courtesy Biomedical Library, UCLA.)

But Duverneys popularity was on a different scale than even Dioniss, as the latter
acknowledged. Before Duverney obtained the position at the Jardin, his performances at
Bourdelots academy, at the Academie des Sciences, and before members of Louis XIVs
court had already made him famous, earning him the title of anatomiste des courtisans.
He was not, it must be noted, a courtier himself, but one who was hired to perform before
the court. Fontenelle praised Duverneys eloquence, which was not only a matter of his
technical knowledge and fluency. The clarity, accuracy, and order of his speech con-
formed to contemporary standards of oratory, but it was an ardor in his expressions, his
manner, and even in his pronunciation that, in Fontenelles view, made him an orator.
Moreover, he was young and very good looking, dune figure assez agreable. So many
flocked to his public lectures at the Jardin that a new lecture theater was built there in

pp. 302303. See also E. T. Hamy, Recherches sur les origines de lenseignement de lanatomie humaine et de
anthropologie au Jardin des plantes, Nouvelles Archives du Museum dHistoire Naturelle, 3rd Ser., 1895, 7:1
21; and Rio Howard, Guy de la Brosse and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, in The Analytic Spirit, ed. Harry
Woolf (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 195224. On Dionis see Roule, Medecins du Jardin du Roi
(cit. n. 6), pp. 4446; and Laissus, Jardin du Roi, pp. 313314.

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1692. Situated immediately to the left of the main entrance, the new amphitheater could
hold six hundred spectators, and it was usually full.30
Royal patronage was important to Duverneys careerboth indirectly, via the Academie
and the Jardin, and directly. Across Europe, princes viewed patronage of science as a way
of increasing their prestige, since science was an increasingly fashionable modern pursuit.
Although Louis XIV himself took little interest in natural philosophy, he was always
abreast of the times. While his minister Colbert was directly responsible for the creation
of the Paris Academie des Sciences in 1666, Louis kept anatomists busy at his personal
residence at Versailles as well.31 For their Academie project, Perrault and Duverney often
dissected exotic animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles. Dissections took place
either at Versailles or in Paris at the Academie or the Jardin du Roi. The project had
commenced in 1667 with a lion, and in 1680, for example, Duverney dissected a panther
that had been transported from Versailles to the Academie in Paris. Funded by the king,
the Memoires pour servir a` lhistoire naturelle des animaux was basically a catalogue of
his menagerie, and many of the illustrations depicted scenes at Versailles. (See Figure 3.)
More than mere curiosity motivated this project, for the king and his advisors had already
decreed that anatomy should be a part of the young dauphins education, along with gen-
eral experiments.32 Thus from the outset Duverneys practice of anatomy fulfilled medical,
natural philosophical, and pedagogical goals.
The dauphins tutors hired Duverney to provide anatomy lessons, and for a time he
regularly hauled his anatomical tools and preparations from Paris to Saint-Germain or to
Versailles. The dauphin, surrounded by bishops and aristocrats, was so fascinated by Du-
verneys lessons that he skipped the hunt to attend, Fontenelle reported, and even re-
commenced his studies after dinner. Duverney repeated his lessons in greater detail at the
apartments of the dauphins tutor, Bishop Bossuet, with an additional audience of courtiers.
In a tribute to Duverneys rhetorical skills, Bossuet claimed that Duverney taught him the
secret of organizing a presentation.33
A 1689 pamphlet on comparative osteology gives some of the flavor of Duverneys

On Duverneys fame see Pierre Dionis, Lanatomie de lhomme, suivant la circulation du sang, et les
dernie`res decouvertes, demontree au Jardin du Roi (Paris: Laurent dHoury, 1690), preface (unpaginated); and
Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 191 (he adds connu de tous, et presque ami de ceux qui avoient le plus de merite). On
the social status of eighteenth-century physicians see Daniel Roche, Medecins et lumie`res au XVIIIe sie`cle:
Talents, raison et sacrifice, in Les republicains des lettres (Paris: Fayard, 1988), pp. 308330. For praise of
Duverneys eloquence and good looks see Fontenelle, Eloge, pp. 189190. On the new amphitheater see
J. P. F. Deleuze, Histoire et description du Museum Royal dHistoire Naturelle, 2 vols. (Paris: Royer, 1823),
Vol. 1, pp. 2122; Laissus, Jardin du Roi, pp. 305307; and Comptes des batiments, Vol. 3, col. 730, Vol. 4,
col. 210.
On Louis see Stroup, Company of Scientists, p. 7. On the background of the Academie see Hahn, Anatomy
of a Scientific Institution (cit. n. 25); Stroup, Company of Scientists; Stroup, Royal Funding of the Parisian
Academie Royale des Sciences (cit. n. 1); Sturdy, Science and Social Status (cit. n. 2); Robin Briggs, The
Academie Royale des Sciences and the Pursuit of Utility, Past and Present, 1991, 131:3888; Seymour L.
Chapin, Science in the Reign of Louis XIV, in The Reign of Louis XIV: Essays in Celebration of Andrew
Lossky, ed. Paul Sonnino et al. (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities, 1990), pp. 179194; and Claire Salomon-
Bayet, Linstitution de la science et lexperience du vivant (Paris: Flammarion, 1978).
Fontenelle, Eloge, pp. 190191. Ole Roemer was charged with the experiments. On the work with the
kings animals see J.-G. Duverney, Observations diverses, in Oeuvres anatomiques de M. Duverney (cit. n.
12), Vol. 2, pp. 537538; Cole, History of Comparative Anatomy (cit. n. 9), p. 403; Masumi Iriye, Le Vaus
Menagerie and the Rise of the animalier: Enclosing, Dissecting, and Representing the Animal in Early Modern
France (Ph.D. diss., Univ. Michigan, 1994); and Louise E. Robbins, Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots:
Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 3747.
Cole, History of Comparative Anatomy, p. 403; Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 191; and Roule, Medecins du Jardin
du Roi (cit. n. 6), p. 46.

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Figure 3. Monkeys at Versailles (sapajous et guenon). From Claude Perrault, Memoires pour servir
a lhistoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676). Duverney probably did the
dissection; the scene, by LeClerc, is clearly at Versailles. (Courtesy Linda Hall Library of Science,
Engineering, and Technology.)

lectures. The order is logical and the delivery is facile, but what also appealed to his
audience was the constant reference to teleology: to purpose, leading inevitably to the
purposes of the Creatorwhich, as any theologian could tell you, was the great virtue of
anatomy. Contemplation of the dead human body (often an executed criminal, whose
punishment was completed by the dissection), juxtaposed to the living and dead animal
bodies that illustrated particular human features, would lead inevitably to contemplation
of the meaning of death itself. Thus anatomical demonstration was a highly moral activity,

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worthy of royal approbation; its medical uses were secondary. Half a century later, the
Encyclopedie stated:

The human body is one of the most beautiful machines to come from the hands of the Creator.
Knowledge of ones self presupposes knowledge of ones body, and knowledge of the body
presupposes knowledge of a chain of causes and effects so prodigious that there is not one that
does not lead directly to the notion of an all-wise and all-powerful intelligence. [Anatomy] is,
so to speak, the foundation of natural theology.34


Skeletons of the animals dissected by Duverney, Perrault, and others graced the anatomy
theater at the Jardin as well as the Academies chambers. As described in the inventories
of 1732 and 1756, these anatomy collections bridge the gap between the Renaissance
cabinet of curiosities and the emerging museum of natural history. Natural history displays
formed an important part of early modern cabinets, which included animals, plants, and
minerals as well as books, antiquities, works of art and other man-made objects, and
monsters and curiosities.35 The arrangement of collections was heterodox. Indeed, the
principles of classification of plants and animals were among the most contested issues in
seventeenth-century science, and some historians have argued that the cabinet of curi-
osities model of museums contributed nothing to emerging ideas of classification. Instead,
the arrangement was intended to reveal the taste of the collector, to be aesthetically pleas-
ing, and to highlight certain similarities across species and even across genres, in keeping
with the Renaissance emphasis on symbolic and emblematic values. For example, in the
collection of the London physician Richard Mead (16731754), a rhinoceros head was
juxtaposed to its representation on a Roman coin.36
By the early eighteenth century ideas about the function of the museum began to change,
although historians debate the extent and rate of that change. The all-encompassing cabinet
of curiosities began to make way for more specialized collections, and the individual

J.-G. Duverney, Lettre a Monsieur ***: Contenant plusieurs nouvelles observations sur losteologie (Paris:
Laurent dHoury, 1689); and Encyclopedie; ou, Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts, et des metiers, 28
vols. (Paris, 17591772), Vol. 1, s.v. Anatomie. See also Philippe Arie`s, The Hour of Our Death, trans. Helen
Weaver (New York: Knopf, 1981), pp. 364365. Geoffrey V. Sutton notes Perraults moralizing tone in the
Histoire des animaux in Science for a Polite Society (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1995), pp. 124125.
Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (Berke-
ley: Univ. California Press, 1994), p. 97. On early museums see also Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor, eds.,
The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe (Oxford:
Clarendon, 1985); C. R. Hill, The Cabinet of Bonnier de Mosson (17021744), Annals of Science, 1986,
43:147174; Antoine Schnapper, Le geant, la licorne et la tulipe: Collections et collectionneurs dans la France
au XVIIe sie`cle, Vol. 1 (Paris: Flammarion, 1988); Pomian, Collectors and Curiosities (cit. n. 3); John Elster
and Roger Cardinal, eds., The Cultures of Collecting (London: Reaktion, 1994); Lorraine Daston and Katharine
Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 11501750 (New York: Zone, 1998); and Spary, Utopias Garden (cit.
n. 12), Ch. 1. Various theoretical underpinnings are provided by Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (1970;
rpt., New York: Vintage, 1994); Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the
Souvenir, the Collection (1984; rpt., Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1993) (I thank Pat Rogers for this refer-
ence); and Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (1968), trans. James Benedict (London: Verso, 1996).
Jay Tribby, Body/Building: Living the Museum Life in Early Modern Europe, Rhetorica, 1992, 10:139
163; and Giuseppe Olmi, From the Marvellous to the Commonplace: Notes on Natural History Museums
(SixteenthEighteenth Centuries), in Non-verbal Communication in Science Prior to 1900, ed. R. G. Mazzolini
(Firenze: Olschki, 1993), pp. 235278, esp. p. 245 (rhinoceros). For the view that the cabinet of curiosities
model contributed nothing to emerging ideas of classification see Wilma George, Alive or Dead: Zoological
Collections in the Seventeenth Century, in Origins of Museums, ed. Impey and MacGregor, pp. 179187, on
p. 186.

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collector began to be displaced by institutions. The public and permanent institution of

the museum replaced the private collection dependent on a single collector. The ideal
museum of natural history described by Antoine Dezailler dArgenville in 1742 presented
only the works of nature, arranged methodically . . . by their natural order, although
he did not describe exactly what that order would be. He also admitted that logic might
be sacrificed to aesthetics for the sake of display. However, Dezailler dArgenville repre-
sented a decisive shift in collecting fashions from antiquities to natural history; by 1750,
natural history objects had overtaken antiques in the collections of the elite.37
Early museums were meeting places for the learned elite and a highlight of the Grand
Tour. They were not public, in the sense that modern museums are open to all. The col-
lections at the Academie were available to a limited audience; the Bibliothe`que du Roi,
where the Academie was housed until 1699, was open to the public two days a week
during the 1690s. The Louvre, where the Academie moved in 1699, was open to the public
only twice a year, during the rentrees publiques in the spring and fall. In contrast, the salle
des squelettes and the natural history collections at the Jardin were regularly open to the
hundreds of auditors of Duverneys anatomy lectures, as well as to those who attended
lectures on chemistry and botany. In his memorandum Chirac pointed out that the salle
des squelettes was open to botanists, chemists, academicians, and the curious in natural
history every day and that visitors could satisfy their curiosity without hindrance. Since
no similar room existed at the Louvre and the Academie limited public access to its
chambers, this public function of the skeletons would be lost if they were moved. The
king had originally ordered the establishment of the cabinet of natural history at the Jardin,
and Chirac argued that this collection was one of the best known in Europe and an attraction
for foreign visitors. Losing the salle des squelettes would be a shameful dismemberment
that would rob the Jardin of its most brilliant part. But open access also had its draw-
backs; the 1729 re`glement ordered Chirac to restrict entry to the Jardin, barring children,
deliverymen, and suspect persons from the grounds, with the aim of reducing disorder.38
The displays at the Jardin included animals, minerals, and dried plants but not antiq-
uities. The first collection at the Jardin was just a cabinet of simplesplant and chemical
drugsintended for teaching and practical use, not for display. By later in the century,
however, the Jardins collections fulfilled many of the aims of early museums. In 1709 the
post of garde et demonstrateur du Cabinet was created, and in 1729 the collection was
definitively named a cabinet of natural history, encompassing the three realms of nature:
animal, vegetable, and mineral. Chirac, the intendant of the Jardin, described its function
as a unity: The curious . . . can freely peruse at the Jardin not only the cabinet of natural
history, but all that is there to merit their curiosity. In other words, the totality of knowl-
edge offered by the Jardinthe gardens and demonstrations as well as the cabinet
offered the best means of satisfying the curiosity of the academicians and others who
visited.39 But the Academies, and particularly Reaumurs, desire to move the skeletons

Antoine Joseph Dezailler dArgenville, Lhistoire naturelle eclaircie dans deux de ces parties principales:
La lithologie, et la conchyliologie (Paris: Chez de Bure lAine, 1742), pp. 192195; Pomian, Collectors and
Curiosities (cit. n. 3), pp. 42, 131; and Spary, Utopias Garden (cit. n. 12), pp. 2225.
Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes (cit. n. 16); and Re`glement concernant le Jardin
Royal des Plantes (cit. n. 17). On the degree of public access at the various institutions see Martin Lister, A
Journey to Paris in the Year 1698, ed. R. P. Stearns (Urbana: Univ. Illinois Press, 1967), pp. 106121; Stroup,
Company of Scientists, pp. 194196; Simone Balaye, La Bibliothe`que Nationale des origins a` 1800 (Geneva:
Droz, 1988), pp. 140143; and Hahn, Anatomy of a Scientific Institution (cit. n. 25), p. 73.
Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes. On the development of the Jardin see Rio Howard,
La bibliothe`que et le laboratoire de Guy de la Brosse au Jardin des plantes a` Paris (Geneva: Droz, 1983);

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signaled a fundamental split between the functions of the two institutions and their rela-
tionship with the public, between applied and theoretical knowledge. At the Academie,
Duverneys collections would instruct in natural philosophy and natural history, not in
medicine, and access to them would be restricted. As a natural philosopher, Reaumur had
a personal as well as a professional interest in identifying the collection as one pertaining
to natural philosophy rather than medicine.
Duverneys collection formed part of the larger natural history collections at the Jardin.
Chirac noted that Duverneys specimens were used frequently for demonstrations and
therefore claimed that it was a public good to keep them at the Jardin, which, unlike the
Academie, had a specific charge to make public demonstrations. The collections were
useful as well as meaningful. Cabinets devoted specifically to anatomy were designed to
be teaching collections, where students could learn basic structures before witnessing an
anatomy lesson or reinforce their knowledge afterward. Dissection destroyed a specimen
in the process of revealing its inner workings, and a dissected specimen did not hold the
same fascination as an entire exotic creature. Both the parts and the whole were necessary
to the lesson. The anatomy cabinet could display the whole, and pieces of it, while the
anatomist dissected yet another example. The seeming overabundance and duplication of
specimens in Duverneys collection served this instructional purpose while also indicating
the amazing variety and fecundity of nature. Yet unlike the personal collection of a courtier,
this collection did not itself bring fame to Duverney. Fontenelle mentioned the collection
in his eloge only for its utility for the study of anatomy.40
The inventory of 1732 reveals that Duverneys collection partook of both older and
newer ideas of the museum: it lists both normal and pathological specimens, both everyday
and exotic animals, and shows evidence of both logical arrangements and odd juxtaposi-
tions. While the specimens did not include such fictitious (and factitious) creatures as the
basilisk, they did, for example, include the skeleton of a dog having wings in place of
forefeet. The inventory describes hundreds of skeletons, bones, and body parts in various
forms of preparation. The lion, gazelle, panther, and ostrich en peau (in its skinthat
is, stuffed) are obviously relics of Louis XIVs menagerie, as is the mysterious cat labeled
pas domestique. These were displayed in a cabinet side by side with dogs, pigs, three
stuffed crocodiles, a dried sea turtle, and two lobsters, not to mention the colon of an
elephant and part of a camels stomach. And that was only one display. An armoire held
more animal skeletons, including another sea turtle, a bat, a porcupine, and a monstrous
sheep, alongside preparations of a human hand and forearm, the head of a human fetus,
and a singular diaphragm.41
Many such anatomical collections still exist, although they are increasingly considered
outmoded in a world of computer modeling. In their heyday, in the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries, the size and diversity of such collections signaled the prestige of the
medical school that housed them. In purpose they combined what we would term physical

Edouard Lamy, Les cabinets dhistoire naturelle en France au XVIIIe sie`cle, et le Cabinet du Roi (16351783)
(Paris: lAuteur, [1930]), p. 39; Fremontier, Cabinet de lAcademie des sciences (cit. n. 15); and Laissus,
Jardin du Roi (cit. n. 29), pp. 292293. Spary, Utopias Garden (cit. n. 12), p. 16, notes that the transition to
cabinet of natural history was officially acknowledged by the crown only in the 1740s.
Contestation Academie-Chirac, Cabinet des squelettes; Findlen, Possessing Nature (cit. n. 35), p. 221;
and Fontenelle, Eloge, pp. 195, 198. On the connections between collecting and fame see Tribby, Body/
Building (cit. n. 36). Spary emphasizes the role of the Cabinet du Roi under Buffon as a display of royal wealth
and power in Utopias Garden, pp. 2224 and passim.
Inventaire 1732, Archives, Academie des Sciences.

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anthropology, comparative zoology, teratology, and comparative anatomy as well as medi-

cal and surgical instruction. The collections included both humans and animals and con-
sisted of several different kinds of specimens, not only skeletons.42
Anatomical preparations, in which body parts were preserved, were highly regarded in
the eighteenth century. The Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch was famous for his prepa-
rations, injected with his secret embalming fluid that gave the skin a lifelike appearance.
Others injected mercury and wax into human and animal bodies or body parts to preserve
them, and individual limbs were sometimes dried, with the skin flayed and artistically
arranged. The French surgeon Guillaume Desnoues made wax models of the human body
and body parts, and these were often startlingly lifelike, with hair, glass eyes, and clothing
to complete the illusion. Desnoues partnered with the Italian Gaetano Giulio Zumbo and
then with a sculptor named Lacroix, with whom he exhibited his waxes in Paris in the
1710s before moving to London around 1720. Lacroix left Desnoues in 1717 to work for
Duverney, with whom he fulfilled a commission from Czar Peter the Great for a wax
model of a human head. The duplicate of this head may be the one described in the Jardins
collections in 1742.43 It is worth remembering that to witness an anatomical dissection was
still an uncommon event and that most medical students rarely had an opportunity to
dissect. These models and preparations helped teach about the body, but they also taught
the observing public about natural philosophy and natural theology.
Duverney had studied the art of making anatomical preparations with Ruysch, and spec-
tators, who took home samples as souvenirs and perhaps even wore them, prized his work.
Although the companion of the English physician-naturalist Martin Lister became faint in
1698 at the sight of Duverneys preparation room, littered with pieces of human and animal
bodies, other admirers were apparently less squeamish. Lister also visited the novelist
Madeleine de Scudery, who showed him the skeletons of her pet chameleons, which she
kept carefully preserved in her living room.44
In Sebastien Le Clercs illustration of a dissection at the Jardin du Roi, skeletons of
animals are visible, hanging on the wall par ordre du Roi. (See Figure 4.) The English
physician John Northleigh described the anatomy School at the Jardin du Roi as filld
with the Skeletons of several Animals, especially one of a very large Elephant, with other
Curiositys of Nature and Art.45 Duverney used both anatomical preparations and skeletons
One such collection is described in Roger Saban and Sylvie Hugues, Les musees danatomie de lInstitut
danatomie (45 rue des Saints-Pe`res75006 Paris), Histoire des Sciences Medicales, 1999, 33:161182.
F.J. Cole, The History of Anatomical Injections, in Studies in the History and Method of Science, ed.
Charles Singer, Vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1921), pp. 285343; Antonie M. Luyendijk-Elshout, Death Enlight-
ened: A Study of Frederik Ruysch, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1970, 212:121126; Julie V.
Hansen, Resurrecting Death: Anatomical Art in the Cabinet of Dr. Frederik Ruysch, Art Bulletin, 1996, 78:663
679; Michel Lemire, Artistes et mortels (Paris: Chabaud, 1990), pp. 7476; Thomas N. Haviland and Lawrence
Charles Parrish, A Brief Account of the Use of Wax Models in the Study of Medicine, Journal of the History
of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1990, 25:5275, esp. pp. 5559; and Sylvie Hugues, Esthetique et anatomie:
Science, religion, sensation, Dix-Huitie`me Sie`cle, 1999, 31:141158. The Jardins wax is described in Dezailler
DArgenville, Histoire naturelle (cit. n. 37), p. 200. See also Paul Lawrence Farber, The Development of
Taxidermy and the History of Ornithology, Isis, 1977, 68:550566.
On appreciation for Duverneys preparations see Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 190; Roule, Medecins du Jardin
du Roi (cit. n. 6), p. 46; and Lemire, Artistes et mortels, p. 76. Lister describes his squeanish companion and the
chameleons in Lister, Journey to Paris (cit. n. 38), pp. 65, 96. On Mlle. de Scuderys chameleons see Erica Harth,
Cartesian Women (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 98106; and Sutton, Science for a Polite Society
(cit. n. 34), pp. 123125.
E. C. Watson, The Early Days of the Academie des Sciences as Portrayed in the Engravings of Sebastien
LeClerc, Osiris, 1939, 7:556587; Stroup, Company of Scientists, pp. 57; Duverney, Lettre a Monsieur ***
(cit. n. 34), p. 9 (par ordre du Roi); and John Northleigh, Topographical Descriptions, with Historico-Political
and Medico-Physical Observations . . . (London, 1702), quoted in John Lough, France Observed in the Seven-
teenth Century by British Travellers (Stocksfield, Northumberland: Oriel, 1985), p. 299.

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Figure 4. Scene of dissection at the Jardin du Roi. From Claude Perrault, Memoires pour servir a
lhistoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676). This is an idealized view by LeClerc.
The dissector is probably either Gayant or Pecquet. The figure in front on the right, holding a book,
may be Perrault. (Courtesy Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, and Technology.)

to illustrate his lectures. For example, in a lecture on osteology he turned to the jawbone
of an elephant to illustrate his point about the relationship between diet and the shape of
teeth. But not all of the skeletons would have been used in lectures, and their purpose was
more than practical. What was the visual impact on the audience of so many skeletons and
preparations? While most of them were in the salle des squelettes, which was accessible
to the auditors of the anatomy lectures, several were in the amphitheater itself. We would
find the close company of so many skeletons quite eerie, and their presence must have
contributed to the moralizing impact of the lectures, which juxtaposed the human cadaver
with living and dead animals. Similarly, the initial letters in the Perrault folios show animals
in biblical scenes such as the Temptation of Eve and Noahs Ark, and the closing emblems
for several chapters illustrate human and animal skeletons and the instruments of dissec-
tion.46 (See Figure 5.)
Symbol of death and the end of all flesh, the skeleton continued to be a focus of both
scientific and popular attention in the eighteenth century. Bones were primary. Duverney,
like many other anatomists, wrote a lengthy treatise on osteology, and the traditional order
of presentation in anatomy lectures began with the skeleton, not the cadaver.47 While some
anatomists claimed that their interest in the human skeleton in particular was purely sci-
entific, they were nonetheless highly aware of its religious and symbolic meanings; in the
words of Philippe Arie`s, the skeleton is the end of life, a simple agent of Providence
today and of nature tomorrow. Renaissance illustrations of anatomy theaters, such as the
famous title page of Vesaliuss De fabrica (1543), featured skeletons looming over the
proceedings. Illustrations of skeletons in anatomy texts often posed them with reminders
of mortality such as an hourglass or a winding-sheet, placing them within the vanities
tradition of popular culture that employed pictures and objects to remind humans of their

Duverney, Lettre a` Monsieur ***, p. 12. On the representation of the skeleton in Baroque art see esp. Andre
Chastel, Le Baroque et la mort (1954) in Fables, formes, figures, Vol. 1 (Paris: Flammarion, 1978), pp. 205226.
See Anita Guerrini, Inside Out: The Presentation of the Body in Eighteenth-Century Anatomy, plenary
lecture, Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Oct. 2001; see also Stewart, On Longing (cit. n. 35),
pp. 104106.

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Figure 5. Tailpiece, showing skeletons and instruments of dissection. From Claude Perrault,
Memoires pour servir a lhistoire naturelle des animaux (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1676). (Courtesy
Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, and Technology.)

mortality.48 (See Frontispiece.) Reliquaries, which could house anything from single bones
to entire elaborately decorated skeletons, continued not only to be prominently displayed
in eighteenth-century Europeparticularly in Catholic countriesbut also to be pro-
duced. The audience for an anatomy lecture would be alert to all these resonances as they
viewed the skeletons in the lecture hall.49 Part of the value of the skeletons lay in their
meaningfulness for this audience, but such meanings were tied to a public role that would
disappear when the skeletons were moved to the Academie, a move that foreshadowed the
disappearance of public anatomy itself.

Arie`s, Hour of Our Death (cit. n. 34), pp. 327328. Arie`s argues that this symbolism became rarer in the
eighteenth century, but it certainly persisted well into the nineteenth. See Jan C. C. Rupp, Matters of Life and
Death: The Social and Cultural Conditions of the Rise of Anatomical Theatres, with Special Reference to
Seventeenth-Century Holland, History of Science, 1990, 18:263287; Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Un am-
phitheatre danatomie moralisee, in Leiden University in the Seventeenth Century, ed. Scheurleer and G. H. M
Posthumus Meyjes (Leiden: Brill, 1975), pp. 217246; and Chastel, Baroque et la mort (cit. n. 46), pp. 218
222. More generally see John McManners, Death and the Enlightenment (1981; rpt., New York: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1986); and Michel Vovelle, ed., Mourir autrefois: Attitudes collectives devant la mort aux XVIIe et XVIIIe
sie`cles ([Paris]: Gallimard/Julliard, 1974).
La mort nen saura rien: Reliques dEurope et dOceanie, exhibit catalogue, Musee National des Arts
dAfrique et dOceanie, Paris (Paris: Editions de la Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 1999); and Chastel, Baroque
et la mort.

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Where did these human skeletons and body parts come from? What about the many animals
used? Whose bodies were these? Traditionally, the Paris Faculty of Medicine was granted
a certain number of bodies of executed criminals. A 1552 ordinance had granted the faculty
absolute power over the distribution of cadavers to the various teaching groups, including
the surgical school at Saint-Come and, after 1640, the Jardin du Roi. The faculty did not
hesitate to execute its power: in 1672 the surgeons obtained a body illicitly and the faculty
sent the huissiers to get it back by force. But the very next year the facultys monopoly
abruptly ended.50
In January 1673 a declaration of the king stated, The first executed body will be
delivered to [the Jardin du Roi] by preference to all others. One historian has described
this as a veritable revolution that at once made the Jardin the premier site for anatomy
in Paris. Through the efforts of Colbert, the Jardin had already assumed greater importance
for medical instruction: in 1671 he had announced that the intendant of the Jardin would
henceforth be the kings first physician, a decision that connected the Jardin more closely
with the court and emphasized its purpose as a physic or medical garden. The lectures at
the Jardin, announced the intendant in 1673, would henceforth be portes ouvertes et
gratuitsfree and openby order of the king.51 This openness implied that medical
knowledge was not the monopoly of the Faculty of Medicine and that its audience was
broader than medical students.
In 1673 the professor of anatomy was Francois Cureau de la Chambre, son of the original
professor. As physician to the queen, he could not attend to lecturing and appointed a
physician from the medical faculty, Pierre Cresse, to read the lectures, while the well-
known surgeon Pierre Dionis performed the actual dissections. However, the discours
and the cours soon separated: Cresse, who gave the narration, is described as a tradi-
tionalist in physiology, while Dionis, who did the dissecting, demonstrated the theory of
the circulation and other new discoveries. The new ideas attracted considerable attention.
Dioniss demonstrations regularly entertained an audience of over four hundred, and a
debate in 1674 between Cresse and one of his critics, Guillaume Lamy, on the subject of
the circulation attracted four hundred spectators to a three-hour disquisition. Lamy com-
mented that plusieurs canaille de la fauxbourg, attirez par une veine curiosite de voir
dissequer un corps attended the debate, which ended in une petite emeutein other
words, a riot.52
In an atmosphere frequently more carnivalesque than gentlemanly, the kings anatomists
pursued their craft. Riots were not an uncommon occurrence at anatomy lectures. As at
public executions, the nearby presence of a dead human body was emotionally disturbing.
In addition, the Jardin was located in close proximity to the university quarter. An ordi-
nance from 1681 forbade the students and auditors who attended anatomy lectures at
the Jardin to wear swords or batons, and intermittent complaints about violent disorders
continued at least up to 1735.53

Hamy, Recherches sur les origines (cit. n. 29), p. 14.
Declaration du Roy: Pour fair continuer les Exercices au Jardin du Roi des Plantes . . . 23 mars. 1673,
AJ/15/01, no. 17, Archives Nationales; Hamy, Recherches sur les origines, p. 15; and Deleuze, Histoire et
description du Museum Royal (cit. n. 30), p. 15.
Hamy, Recherches sur les origines, pp. 1718. Lamys comment may be translated as many of the riffraff
of the neighborhood, attracted by a foolish curiosity to see a body dissected.
On execution see Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977);

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Francois Cureau de la Chambre died in 1680, and the division of labor between Cresse
and Dionis ended. Although Dionis, as a popular lecturer, seemed an obvious choice to
succeed Cureau de la Chambre, it is not clear that, as a surgeon rather than a physician,
he could have been the professor as opposed to a demonstrator. In fact, Dionis decided to
return to the court as surgeon to the queen, leaving the door open for the appointment of
Duverney, by that time one of the best-known Paris anatomists. Dionis appears to have
used only two cadavers for his course: one for anatomical demonstrations and one to
demonstrate surgical operations. By all accounts, Duverney used many more; Martin Lister
claims he used at least twenty human bodies for his course. Where did he get them?
Perhaps desirous to preserve a veneer of respectability, Lister says that they were executed
criminals, unclaimed bodies of those found murdered, and from the Hospitals.54
But it is unlikely that Duverney could have obtained so many bodies through legal
channels. In 1717 the Hotel Dieu, the largest hospital in Paris, allowed two cadavers a
year to the Jardin du Roi in the winter (the usual time for dissection) and a few arms and
legs during the summer. Like prominent anatomists in other countries, Duverney obtained
most of his bodies illegally. The Hotel Dieus records detail a number of violations. In
1682 the minutes of the hospitals governors recorded that the gravedigger at the hospitals
cemetery sold cadavers to surgeons and to the Jardin du Roi. In August 1717 it was reported
that Duverneys assistant often took entire dead bodies from the cemetery, hacking
off limbs and cutting out internal organs on site, to the great scandal of the people, who
cannot view such a spectacle without horror.55 The Hotel Dieu decided in 1717 to forbid
Duverney from obtaining corpses altogether, but his suborning of the gravedigger ap-
parently continued until 1725, when the latter was finally dismissed. Thus Duverney il-
legally purchased corpses for over forty years, and in 1749 the Hotel Dieu was still reg-
istering complaints about the sale of cadavers. Since the trade went on for so long, with
only intermittent enforcement, the predominant policy seems to have been to turn a blind
eye to the purchase of bodies.
Meanwhile, in 1722 the Hopital General, which included the Salpetrie`re (just down the
street from the Jardin), agreed to provide Duverney with a certain number of cadavers.
Those who had the misfortune to die in the Hotel Dieu and other hospitals were, for the
most part, indigent. If they were to be buried in the hospital cemetery, it was because no
one came to claim their bodies.56

McManners, Death and the Enlightenment (cit. n. 48), pp. 368408; Peter Linebaugh, The Tyburn Riot against
the Surgeons, in E. P. Thompson et al., Albions Fatal Tree (New York: Pantheon, 1975), pp. 65117; Randall
McGowan, The Body and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England, Journal of Modern History, 1987,
59:651679; and M. B. Merback, The Thief, the Cross, and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment
in Medieval and Renaissance Europe (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1999). On the neighborhood of the Jardin
see Stroup, Company of Scientists, p. 187; Jacques Perrin, Le Jardin des plantes (Paris: Julliard, 1984); and
Gonzague Truc, Le quartier St-Victor et le Jardin des plantes (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1930). For the 1681 ordinance
see Ordonnance portant deffences dassister au lecons qui se sont au Jardin du Roi, avec Espees ou bastons,
MS AJ/15/514, no. 670, Archives Nationales. Additional ordinances and declarations on riots are in the same
folder, A16, of this archive.
Dionis, Anatomie de lhomme (cit. n. 30), preface (unpaginated); and Lister, Journey to Paris (cit. n. 38),
p. 69.
Deliberations de lancien bureau de lHotel Dieu, in Collections de documents pour servir a` lhistoire des
hopitaux de Paris, ed. Leon Brie`le, 5 vols., Vol. 1 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1881), pp. 351352, 121, 275.
See also Toby Gelfand, The Paris Manner of Dissection: Student Anatomical Dissection in Early Eighteenth-
Century Paris, Bull. Hist. Med., 1972, 46:99130, esp. pp. 105107.
Deliberations de lancien bureau de lHotel Dieu, Vol. 1, pp. 351352; Gelfand, Paris Manner of Dis-
section, p. 107 n 33; Sylvio LeBlond, Anatomistes et resurrectionistes en France, Canadian Medical Asso-
ciation Journal, 1968, 99:368370, esp. p. 370; and Ruth Richardson, Death, Dissection, and the Destitute
(1988; rpt., London: Penguin, 1989).

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Little is known about the origins of most of the animals used. The exotic animals
dissected by Duverney generally came from the royal menagerie. Explorers and travelers
also sent animals directly to the Academie. But what of the other animals in Duverneys
collection: the pig, the dogs, the horse, the five prepared rats? Mice and rats of course
were easily found, and stray dogs and cats abounded on the streets of Paris. On several
occasions the Academie paid Pierre Couplet, later concie`rge at the Paris Observatoire, for
finding animals.57


The question of who paid for these human and animal bodies intersects with the larger
question of the intertwining finances of the Academie and the Jardin du Roi. Duverney
and others labored for the benefit of both institutions. The manner in which the crown
funded the Academie and the Jardin, especially before the reorganization of the former in
1699, had much to do with the question of the ownership of Duverneys skeletons. First
there was the matter of experimental space. Between 1666 and 1699 the Academie des
Sciences occupied a building on the rue Vivienne in Paris that also contained the Biblio-
the`que du Roi, the royal library. Although the Observatoire, completed in 1672, was sup-
posed to be the new headquarters of the Academie, it turned out to be too small as well
as, in the view of many members, too far from the center of Paris. Much of the early
anatomical work of Perrault and his team was carried out at the rue Vivienne; but as Guy
Meynell observes, it cannot have been agreeable for scholars . . . to have had animal (and
human) cadavers being dissected nearby for days on end. By the late 1660s the Acade-
mies anatomists performed much of their work at home or at other sites such as Versailles.
Duverneys appointment at the Jardin du Roi led to its use as a site for the Academies
anatomical work as well.58
At the Jardin Duverney was in fact at home, because one of the provisions of his
appointment as professor was an apartment on the grounds. The preparation room that
Lister described in 1698 was, as he noted, in Duverneys home. This mingling of public
and private and of personal and royal finances was typical of the era. When Buffon became
intendant of the Jardin in 1739 he used his own funds to enlarge it for the purpose of
personal and political advancement. But Buffon had funds of his own to spend, unlike
Duverney, who had no personal wealth and depended on the crown for his livelihood.
Both the complaints Duverney lodged at the time and the claims he made for his skeletons
in his will demonstrate the emergence, however tentative, of the natural philosopher as an
individual who owned property, in opposition to the natural philosopher as a collective
entity defined by a corporation or patron.59 Duverney claimed his natural right as an in-

Regarding Couplets work see Comptes des batiments, Vol. 1 (16641680), cols. 448, 460, 648; his task is
variously described as to recouvrer or rechercher animals for dissection. On animals sent by explorers and
travelers see Jean-Bernard Lacroix, Lapprovisionnement des menageries et les transports danimaux sauvages
par la Compagnie des Indes au XVIIIe sie`cle, Revue Francaise dHistoire dOutre-Mer, 1978, 65:153179. On
the menagerie at Versailles see Iriye, Le Vaus Menagerie (cit. n. 32); and Gustave Loisel, Histoire des men-
ageries de lantiquite a` nos jours, 3 vols. (Paris: Doin, 1912).
Guy Meynell, The Academie des sciences at the rue Vivienne, 16661699, Archives Internationales
dHistoire des Sciences, 1995, 45:2237, on p. 23. Meynell suggests that anatomical experiments for the Aca-
demie may have taken place at the Jardin even before Duverneys arrival (pp. 3334).
I owe this point to J. B. Shank; see also Hilaire-Perez, Invention technique au sie`cle des Lumie`res (cit. n. 4).
However, Duverney owned no real estate; his property consisted of his anatomical models and specimens. See
also Spary, Utopias Garden (cit. n. 12), p. 35.

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dividual against the corporate right of the Academie and the Jardin with regard to the only
property he possessed, his anatomical models and specimens. But he made this claim in
only a very limited way.
Duverney received yearly pensions from the Academie and the Jardin of 1,500 livres
each, a total of 3,000 livres per annum, and he was also reimbursed for materials and tools.
While the intendant of the Jardin received almost 9,000 livres, he had to pay various
assistants out of that. In addition, the royal accounts show payments to Duverney for
various assistants, including the garcon who acquired dead bodies from the cemetery of
the Hotel Dieu. Besides these and Couplet, the royal accounts list regular payments to the
cutlers Andre and Andre-Guillaume Gerard for making instruments of dissection and to
Andre Colson, described as an ebeniste or cabinetmaker. Colson made the skeletons out
of specimens at the Academie, the Jardin, and the menagerie at Versailles, many of them
specifically designated for the salle des squelettes at the Jardin. He also cleaned and main-
tained them for several years. While Colson may be defined as one of the invisible
technicians behind the scenes of early modern science, the expertise to construct the
skeletons accurately could not have come from a cabinetmaker but had to come from
Duverney himself.60
Duverneys pensions placed him in the middle range of Academie pensionnaires. But
the amount he received never changed over fifty years, despite the inflation of prices; by
1726 the value of the livre had dropped by more than half from its 1660 value. Acade-
micians who depended solely on their Academie stipends were very poor. In addition,
these pensions were paid irregularly. Particularly as financial conditions in France wors-
ened during the course of Louis XIVs wars of the 1690s, pension payments to academi-
cians were often years in arrears. Pensions for 1692, for example, went unpaid until 1695.
The end of the War of the League of Augsburg in 1697 and the reorganization of the
Academie in 1699 afforded some relief, but pensions remained in arrears.61
The costs of materials and tools for dissection came out of Duverneys pocket, to be
reimbursed later. But the schedule for reimbursement, like the payment of pensions, was
highly irregular. In 1681, for example, the crown reimbursed Duverney for the previous
three years expenses incurred at the Academie, the not-inconsiderable sum of nearly 400
livres. In 1687 and 1688 he was reimbursed promptly for the previous twelve months
expenditures, but the sums were also much greater: 926 livres in 1687 and 1,346 livres in
1688. Two memoranda from 1688 indicate the kinds of expenses Duverney incurred. A
memorandum to the Academie detailed his expenditures directly related to the ongoing
Histoire des animaux project. These included the purchase of syringes, a microscope, and
two very strong magnifying glasses, as well as towels, sponges, and basins, coal and
wood to heat the dissection chamber, and candles to light it. Duverney purchased animal
entrails from the neighborhood butcher and paid a man to haul off and bury the used
animal parts. He paid for several other kinds of animals as well. He also paid a man to
keep the skeleton room clean. These expenses amounted to 327 livres, about a quarter of
what he spent that year. The disposition of the remaining 1,019 livres is enumerated in a
memorandum relating his expenses for his course at the Jardin. These ranged from five
human bodies (one for each of five demonstrations) to seven hundred broadsides to ad-

For the Gerards see Comptes des batiments, Vol. 2, cols. 502, 1010, 1198, and others; for Colson see ibid.,
Vol. 1, cols. 631, 889, 947, and many more. On invisible technicians see Steven Shapin, A Social History of
Truth (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1994), Ch. 8.
Stroup, Royal Funding of the Parisian Academie Royale des Sciences (cit. n. 1), pp. 27 n 28, 2931.

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vertise the coursethree hundred in Latin and four hundred in French, indicating a mixed
audienceas well as someone to post them. He hired soldiers to impede disorder, bought
animals (four-footed, birds, and fish), and hired a surgeon to demonstrate specifically
surgical operations such as bandaging. Candles, instruments, and injections were lumped
in one category. Not mentioned, but perhaps included in this category as well (or perhaps
simply supplied from the chemistry labs at the Jardin) were the copious quantities of eau
de vie or spirit of wine commonly used in human dissection to wash out the putrefying
cadaver and arrest the process of decay.62
In the year 16871688, therefore, Duverney spent most of one of his two pensions on
operating expenses. Although he was reimbursed within a year, he would not be so for-
tunate in the 1690s and later. Even the costs of building the new anatomy theater, used
both for demonstration and for Academie research, initially came out of Duverneys pocket.
The theater was built in 1692, and in that year Duverney was recompensed 400 livres for
its construction. However, that sum covered only a fraction of the actual cost, and Duver-
ney was not reimbursed for the remainder1,950 livres, more than his yearly pension
from the Jardinuntil 1697.63
In an undated memo from the early eighteenth century Duverney complained to the
Academie that since the year 1700 he has not been reimbursed for any of the expenses
which he has paid for the purchase of [anatomical] subjects, for injections, utensils, and
other things necessary for anatomical preparations. Indeed, Duverney was not paid his
pensions for 1701 and 1702 until the end of 1702, and it was not until 1705 that he was
reimbursed for expenses dating back to 1699. There is no way to ascertain whether these
reimbursements covered all of Duverneys expenses or, alternatively, whether he indeed
made all the disbursements he claimed. In the memo he added that he was also owed for
the expenses for nearly thirty years for the upkeep and cleaning of the skeletons in the
skeleton room at the Jardina room that belonged to the Academie des Sciences. Even
after the Academie moved to larger quarters in the Louvre in 1699, the salle des squelettes
remained at the Jardin. In practical terms this made sense, since Duverney, the chief anat-
omist at both institutions, did most if not all of his anatomical workboth teaching and
researchat the Jardin. But it served as another complication in the tangled and inter-
twining financial and intellectual relationship between the Jardin and the Academie and
between both of them and Duverney. While the Academies intellectual productions were
directed toward the crown and not toward a more general republic of letters, both the
lectures at the Jardin du Roi and, after 1700, the publication of the Histoire and Memoires
of the Academie were indeed directed to a larger public, not merely to the king.64 Patrons

For the reimbursements see Comptes des batiments, Vol. 1, col. 1343, Vol. 2, col. 1188, Vol. 3, col. 120.
For the memoranda see Schiller, Laboratoires danatomie (cit. n. 9), app., pp. 113114 (which reprints the
memoir: Ser. O1 21242 liasse 2, Archives Nationales); and Guy Meynell, Surgical Teaching at the Jardin des
Plantes during the Seventeenth Century, Gesnerus, 1994, 51:101108, on pp. 104106 (which reprints the
memoir: Ser. O12124, liasse 2, Archives Nationales). Although Meynell describes Duverneys course as sur-
gical, in fact it covered much more than surgery. Schiller, Laboratoires danatomie, p. 109, mentions the
supply of eau de vie; Stroup, Royal Funding of the Parisian Academie Royale des Sciences, p. 48, notes that the
anatomists also drank it.
Comptes des batiments, Vol. 3, col. 730, Vol. 4, cols. 150, 210. See also Laissus, Jardin du Roi (cit. n. 29),
p. 307; and Salomon-Bayet, Institution de la science (cit. n. 31), pp. 385386, which emphasizes the laboratory
function of the anatomy theater.
For the complaint see Dossier: Joseph-Guichard Duverney, Archives, Academie des Sciences. On payments
and reimbursements see Comptes des batiments, Vol. 4, cols. 858, 1191. He was paid for expenses between 1699
and 1701 in 1705 and for the period 17021705 in 17061707 (Vol. 5, cols. 48, 149). On the location of
Duverneys anatomical work see Schiller, Laboratoires danatomie, pp. 107108; Fremontier, Cabinet de

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constituted only part of Duverneys audience. These complications were fully revealed in
the dispute over his will in 17301732.


Chirac made two arguments: that none of the skeletons and preparations belonged to
Duverney, and therefore he could not dispose of them; and that, in terms of meaning and
usefulness, the skeletons belonged in the public space of the Jardin rather than the closed
space of the Academie. This implied in addition that their usefulness and meaning were
tied to their use in medical instruction.
Chiracs arguments with regard to Duverneys contribution to the construction of the
artifacts were not entirely accurate. Duverney had performed a majority of the dissections,
and the specimens came from a variety of sources, not only from the royal menagerie. He
supervised the construction of the skeletons and made the anatomical preparations himself,
and he paid for many of the specimens. Although he appears to have been reimbursed for
these, the figure of 500 livres named by Chirac certainly would not have covered his
expenses in many years, and it is not supported by the relevant documents. In addition,
the salle des squelettes itself had long been the property of the Academie.
Reaumur, on the other hand, said that some parts of the collectionthe preparations on
bone diseasesdid belong to Duverney and that he could dispose of them by willing them
to the Academie. Whether this was indeed Duverneys intention remains unclear. But how
did Reaumur make this distinction? Since Duverney undoubtedly had a hand in preparing
nearly all of the specimens, his labors, physical or intellectual, as well as his organizational
acumen, were evident throughout the collection. Yet Colson may have done the actual
work of mounting the skeletons, and Fontenelle stated that, as Duverney aged and his
health deteriorated, he turned over most of the actual dissecting to an assistant. Nonethe-
less, his intellectual stamp remained on both his course and his specimens. On this level,
at least, they belonged to him.65 Moreover, it is impossible to tell whether Duverney was
in fact reimbursed for all of the specimens he bought.
Unlike written documents, whose authorship could be legally asserted by copyright, or
invented objects, which could be patented, anatomical specimens retained a certain ano-
nymity in both their origins and their authorship. Their provenance was often illegal.
Dissection and vivisection implied violence and transgression. The notion of ownership
itself held multiple meanings in this context.
Meaning and usefulness also varied greatly. While the ideal natural history museum
envisaged by Dezailler dArgenville was morally neutral, this ideal collided with the reality
of Duverneys heterogeneous collection. At the Jardin, the collections usefulness in medi-
cal instruction collided with its disturbing moral meanings, and violence was too often the
unwelcome result. Its meaning for natural philosophy and medicine could not be deter-
mined solely by those intellectuals with a proper understanding of its contents. In contrast,
at the Academie, where the collection was installed in 1732, the audience was much more

lAcademie des sciences (cit. n. 15), pp. 1926; and Salomon-Bayet, Institution de la science, Ch. 10. On
audience see Mario Biagioli, Etiquette, Interdependence, and Sociability in Seventeenth-Century Science,
Critical Inquiry, 1996, 22:228229; and Licoppe, Formation de la pratique scientifique (cit. n. 6), pp. 7187,
8894. Louise Robbins argues that the Histoire des animaux volumes did not appeal to the general public and
were not a popular success, particularly when measured against Buffons Histoire naturelle: Robbins, Elephant
Slaves and Pampered Parrots (cit. n. 32), pp. 170, 289 n 47.
Fontenelle, Eloge, p. 195.

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restricted. While Duverney valued the skeletons for medical instruction, the Academie
defined them in terms of natural philosophy, a definition that allowed them to shed much
of the moral interpretation imposed by the dissection room. They increased the prestige
of the Academie by their presence while pulling away from the cabinet of curiosities
model toward that of the natural history museum.
Duverneys successor as professor at the Jardin, Francois-Joseph Hunauld (17011742),
made his own cabinet of anatomical specimens to replace that of Duverney. After Chiracs
death in 1732 the intendant was no longer the kings first physician but a natural philos-
opher, first Charles Dufay and then Buffon. Whether this change owed to Chiracs failure
of leadership or was a sign of a more general shift in priorities remains to be determined.
Under Buffon, the Jardin shifted decisively toward natural history and natural philosophy
over the model of the physic garden, lending yet another meaning to skeletal remains as
the focus of the Jardins cabinet also moved from anatomy to natural history. In 1749
Reaumur noted that this cabinet contained many plants, rocks, and shells but few birds,
minerals, or insects. This lack was soon remedied: when Reaumur died in 1757 he left his
own cabinet to the Academie. But by an ordinance of 2 January 1758, the king declared
that Reaumurs cabinet consisted of natural history specimens and therefore ordered that
it be given to the Jardin. The cabinet was especially rich in insects.66
Duverneys skeletons held many meaningsemotional, moral, religious, medical, and
scientific. The controversy around their ownership brings these multiple meanings to light,
and the ambiguity of the skeleton itself in terms of its ownership, moral and scientific
significance, and authorship reveals significant tensions in the prosecution, patronage, and
legacy of prerevolutionary Parisian anatomical study.

Barritault, Anatomie en France (cit. n. 6), p. 41 (on Hunaulds cabinet); and Lamy, Cabinets dhistoire
naturelle en France (cit. n. 39), pp. 26, 44 (on Reaumurs cabinet).

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