Cat, Claude Nicholas Le

, an eminent French physician and surgeon, was born at Blerancourt, between Noyon and Coucy, Sept. 6, 1700. If chirurgical skill be hereditary, his claims were considerable, as he was descended both by the father’s and mother’s side from eminent practitioners. His parents, however, first intended him for the church; but after completing his philosophy course, he applied himself to the study of medicine, not altogether with his inclination. From his infancy he had amused himself with making geometrical figures, and without the aid of a master, used to make drawings of military architecture with considerable accuracy, and at one time seems to have had an inclination for the bar, but at last he had no alternative but the church, or the profession of his ancestors, and having determined in favour of the latter, he went to Paris for education in the different branches of the healing art. The first publication by which he was known, was a curious dissertation, which he printed in his twenty-fourth year, on the mechanism of the buttresses of the church of St. Nicaise at Rheuns: these buttresses have always been an object of curiosity, as a motion is perceptible in them, which has never affected their solidity. la 1729, he was appointed surgeon and physician to M. de Tressan, archbishop of Rouen. He did not take his degree, however, until 1732, when he took it at Rheims, to avoid the heavy expence of 6000 livres, which it would have | cost at Paris. In 1733, he settled at Rouen, and began to give a course of anatomical lectures, and there first he established a high reputation for his dextrous method of operation for the stone. In 1731 he obtained the reversion of the place of surgeon-major to the hospital at Rouen; and when the royal academy of surgery was established, he gained the first prize, and continued to gain all the prizes of that academy to the year 17:58 inclusive, when they paid him the high compliment of requesting that he would no longer become a candidate, but leave to others a chance of obtaining these rewards. Flattering as this seemed, M. Le Cat was aware that the academicians had it in their power to prevent his contending for prizes in a more effectual way, by electing him one of their body, and accordingly stood for the prize of 1739 with his usual success: about the end of the year, however, he was elected into the academy, and pursued his career of fame by those numerous publications on which it was so justly founded.

In 1736, he established at Rouen a public school of surgery and anatomy, built an ample theatre at his own expence, and gave lectures for ten or twelve years gratis, at the end of which time he received a pension from the king. From this school, in the course of time, arose a literary association, which is now the academy of Rouen, and of which he was many years secretary; and the parliament, to testify their respect for the zeal and patriotism he had displayed, allowed him a pension of 1000 livres for some years. In 1739, he published a dissertation on solvents for the stone, and particularly on that sold in this country by Mrs. Stephens, which was once thought infallible. In December of that year, he was admitted a corresponding member of the royal academy of sciences at Paris, to whose memoirs he had contributed many curious papers; and in 1740, a similar honour was paid to him by the Royal Society of London. About the same time, he refused the most liberal offers made him to remove to Paris; his attachment to the city of Rou^n, and the regard paid him by all classes there, inducing him to prefer residing among them. In 1741 the academy of Madrid elected him one of their body; and the year following he exhibited another proof of his attachment to the promotion of science, by establishing a school for design at Rouen, for which purpose he accommodated M. Descarnp, a Flemish artist, with the use of his amphitheatre. | In 1746 he began a course of experimental philosophy at Rouen, which he continued as well as his ordinary lectures on surgery and anatomy; and in 1749 he founded three anatomical prizes. In this last year^ he published various papers on the operation for the stone in the female subject; and in 1750> his love for the arts and sciences induced him to publish an energetic refutation of Rousseau’s famous discourse which had received the prize of the academy of Dijon* In the course of his progress he was honoured by admission into most of the learned societies in Europe, and contributed papers to their various memoirs.

In 1755 he was at Paris during the months of February and Marchj attending a general meeting of lithotomists to determine on the superiority of his method of operation, and the decision was in his favour. In the spring of the same year^ he was invited to Lisle and the Netherlands to attend some persons of the first rank afflicted with cataracts > and he effected some cures so remarkable that the populace considered them as miracles. The last years of his life were employed on an edition of the first volumes of the Memoirs of the Academy of Rouen, and a treatise on osteology. He died at Rouen Aug. 20, 1768, and was interred in the new church of the Hotel-Dieu. Haller characterises Le Cat as an ingenious man, distinguished for some real discoveries in anatomy, but inaccurate with respect to others, and prone to new hypotheses. His principal writings are 1 “Traite des sensations et des passions en general,1749, 2 vols. 8vo, translated into English about the same time, but republished by the author at Paris, 1767, with many improvements. 2. “Dissertation sur Pexistence et la nature du fluide des nerfs,1753. 3. “La Theorie de Pouie,Paris, 1758, 8vo. 4. “Eloge de Fontenelle,1759, 12mo, which is said to contain many particulars of that eminent man not to be found elsewhere. 5. “Traite de la couieur de la peau humaine,1765, 8vo. 6. “Nouveau sy steme sur la cause de P evacuation periodique du sexe,1765, 8vo. 7. “Cours abrege d’osteologie,1767, 8vo. 1


Le Necrologe des Homines celebres, 1769. —Dict. Hist.