Michel-Philippe Bouvart

French professor

Michel-Philippe Bouvart (Chartres, 11 January 1717 – Paris, 19 January 1787) was a French medical doctor, perhaps best known for his witticisms.


  • We know that, in Paris, fashion imposes its dictates on medicine just as it does with everything else. Well, at one time, pyramidal elm bark had a great reputation; it was taken as a powder, as an extract, as an elixir, even in baths. It was good for the nerves, the chest, the stomach — what can I say? — it was a true panacea. At the peak of the fad, one of Bouvard’s [sic] patients asked him if it might not be a good idea to take some: "Take it, Madame", he replied, "and hurry up while it [still] cures." [dépêchez-vous pendant qu’elle guérit]
  • It is said that he replied to Cardinal ***, a not very regular prelate (some say Abbot Terray), who was complaining of suffering like a damned person: "What! Already, monseigneur?" In my opinion, he might well have said this about one of his patients, but not to his face; manners would not allow that.
    • Gaston de Lévis, Souvenirs et portraits, 1780-1789, 1813, p. 240
    • An "regular prelate" (prélat régulier) is a high-ranking churchman; this is a play on words, implying that he was irregular, that is, immoral. Abbot Terray is Joseph Marie Terray.
  • Mr. *** was being tried for a dishonorable matter; he got sick, and died. Bouvard [sic] was his doctor, and said: I got him off the hook. It was said of the same person: He is truly sick, he can't take any more [presumably medicine].
    • Antoine-Denis Bailly, Choix d'anecdotes, anciennes et modernes, recueillies des meilleurs auteurs, 5, 2nd ed., 1803 (Year XI) p. 15
  • Bouvart went to see one of the lords of the old Court, who was seriously ill for a fortnight. As he entered, Good day, Mr. Bouvart, said the patient. I am happy to see you. I feel much better; I think I no longer have a fever. Look!I am certain of it, says the doctor; I noticed it at your first word.How is that?Oh! Nothing simpler. In the first days of your illness, and as long as you were in danger, I was your dear friend; you called me nothing else. The last time, when you were somewhat better, I was just your dear Bouvart. Today, I am Mr. Bouvard. It is clear that you are cured.
    • L'esprit des journaux, françois et étrangers 23:2:74-75 (February 1794)

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