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Laurent Joubert of Montpellier (1529–82) and his Erreurs Populaires
  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. Department of Child Health Bristol University Southmead Hospital Southmead Bristol BS10 5NB
  1. Professor Peter Dunn

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Laurent Joubert was born on 16 December 1529 in the old province of Dauphiné in south-central France. He was the tenth of 20 children born to Le Chevalier Joubert and his wife, Catherine de Genas, between 1519 and 1541. Educated in his home town, he became at the age of 21 a student of Guillaume Rondelet, Chancellor of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Montpellier. Even before receiving his doctorate of medicine in 1558 he had acquired the reputation of being an excellent teacher; on the death of Rondelet in 1556 he was, at the popular request of the students, appointed regent, and shortly afterwards, Chancellor of the Faculté. In this capacity he caught the attention of Catherine de Medici, who appointed him her personal physician. He also became one of the king's physicians (fig 1).

Figure 1

Laurent Joubert (an artist's impression).

Joubert wrote a number of medical books in French as well as in Latin, of which undoubtedly the most important was hisPopular Errors, the first part of which was published in 1577. Recently it has been translated and annotated by Professor de Rocher of Alabama.1 In this book Joubert not only attempted to correct current misconceptions but at the same time boost the prestige of the physicians at the expense of other practitioners such as the barber-surgeons, apothecaries, and midwives. He also wrote about sexual matters that were considered taboo and in the province of women. The book caused a storm of protest. Joubert defended himself in an open letter to the Queen of Navarre, claiming that in addressing subjects such as conception and the diagnosis of virginity he was only discussing normal body functions. Still, the second edition, in 1579, was recommended reading only for …

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