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Félix Vicq d‘Azyr (1748–94)


FÉLIX VICQ D‘AZYR, who was born at Valognes in Normandy two hundred years ago on April 23, 1748, may properly be styled the greatest comparative anatomist of the eighteenth century before Cuvier. At the wish of his father, a doctor, he went to Paris at the age of seventeen to study medicine, remaining in the capital all his life. His social success and rapid rise to fame he is said to have owed to the French naturalist, Louis Jean Martin Daubenton, whose niece he married. He became permanent secretary to the newly founded Paris Academy of Medicine and succeeded Buffon in the French Academy. He was also consulting physician to the Queen. While his name is specifically immortalized in the ‘band of Vicq d‘Azyr' (also described by Gennari in 1782) and in the ‘bundle of Vicq d‘Azyr' (fasciculus mammillo-thalamicus), he made numerous exceedingly distinguished contributions to comparative and to human anatomy. Of particular importance is his comparative study of the limbs of man and animals, which stresses the correspondence between the flexor and extensor muscles of the legs and arms. In the troubled times in which his last years were spent he frequently risked death by attending patients on the proscribed list. He is believed to have caught a chill while watching the burning of the allegorical figure of atheism, and he died on June 20, 1794, at the early age of forty-six. Vicq d‘Azyr‘s writings were published after his death by Moreau de la Sarthe under the title "Oeuvres de Vicq d‘Azyr" (6 volumes), Paris, 1805.

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Félix Vicq d‘Azyr (1748–94). Nature 161, 634 (1948).

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