NICOLAS DEYEUX (1745-1837),

by Xavier Riaud(*), FINS

Nicolas Deyeux
(Corlieu, 1896, © BIUM)

Nicolas Deyeux was born in Paris on March 21, 1745. After an education without a hitch at the Mazarin secondary school, he learnt pharmacy with his uncle. He was aware of the success of the family’s pharmacy since many women found him attractive to the extent of cleaning out all the beauty products of the shop and of making him deliver their orders. He never concealed his strong insterest in saucy or even erotic stories (Ramé, 1988).
In 1772, he graduated in pharmacy. Then, he took his uncle’s dental office over for fifteen years. In parallel with his business, he became demonstrator at the college of pharmacy which had just opened. From 1782 to 1797, he was one of the writers of the Review on discoveries and improvements of the national and foreign industry, on the rural and domestic economy, on physics, chemistry, natural history, on domestic and veterinary medicine, and on sciences and arts relating to vital needs. It was published from 1782 to 1831 by Buisson (, 2010). In 1787, he sold his business as he was more interested in carrying out research (Chevallier, 1837). He also devoted his time to teaching and published many research papers alone or in partnership with other researchers in the Review of Physics (Journal de physiques), the Annals of Chemistry (Annales de chimie) or even in the Journal of Pharmacy (Journal de pharmacie). In 1790, Parmentier and Nicolas Deyeux won the prize of the Royal Society of Medicine thanks to their memoirs on a chemical analysis of milk. In 1791, the two men won the prize again with their analysis of blood which was the title of the memoirs presented to the institution (De Beauvillé, 2010 ; Riaud, 2010). He also published his memoirs on opium, galls and gallic acid. His research co-written with Herbin on stone deficiency and the dissolution of kidney stones was highly praised. He also contributed to the commented new edition of the research of Olivier de Serres, Henry IV’s favourite agronomist (Fougère, 1956 ; Ramé, 1988). 
During the revolution, his brother, a royal activist, was decapidated on July 7, 1794. De facto, he was also bothered and he eventually pulled through with his other brother working with him for a while. He remained professor at the college of pharmacy and at the faculty of medicine where he taught chemistry (, 2010 ; Ramé, 1988).
On November 25, 1797, he was made member of the Institute of France in the chemistry section of the class of Physics and Mathematics. On July 6, 1802, he was made member of the Council of Salubrity and Hygiene in the Seine region (Ramé, 1988).
Subsequently, in 1804, Corvisart offered him to become the first pharmacist of the Emperor, a position which was officialized on July 18, 1804 and for which he received 6 000 francs. However, he reluctantly accepted the position. Indeed, he was said to be frightened by fightings in general and by the subsequent deaths surrounding them. He did not want to follow the Great Army and only wanted to stay in the capital (Ramé, 1988). Moreover, he always remained frank about it to Napoleon : « Sire, the fact that you trust me honours me but I accept your proposal provided that I do not join the army… » he told the Emperor (Lemaire, 2003 ; Coquillard, 2009).
Described as a devoted person to his duty, as being very touchy and as a hesitating man, he masterfully organized and structured the pharmacy of the Imperial court during ten years. Helped by other pharmacists, he often delegated his power during military campaigns. Thus, Bouillon-Lagrange accompanied the Emperor during his trips from 1805 to 1807, Cadet de Gassicourt followed him in Austria in 1809 and Rouyer was by his side in Spain in 1808, in Russia in 1812 and in Saxony in 1813 (Ramé, 1988).
However, Napoleon was dissatisfied with the management of the pharmacy of the court. Indeed, on March 21 1812, Napoleon, who was said to be furious, ordered the implementation of a great pharmacy in the Tuileries, with branches on the Emperor’s holiday locations. Following this decision, Deyeux got angry with Cadet de Gassicourt for good. The latter supplemented his income by overcharging the products sold in his business to the Emperor (Ramé, 1988).
It was Corvisart who informed the Emperor about Josephine’s sterility and who tried to treat her. However, his patient kept on asking him for new medicine and the doctor finally gave her a placebo made up of crumb by Nicolas Deyeux (Gourdol, 2010; Rabusson Corvisart, 1988).
On May 31 1811, he actively took care of the King of Rome who was inoculated on the fourth of the same month (Coquillard, 2009).
Deyeux saw his remuneration rising to 8 000 francs per year. Was it due to the missions previously mentioned or to the success of his partnership with Delessert when they produced beet sugar on January 2, 1812 (Chevallier, 1837; Ramé, 1988) ?
During the Hundred Days, as he was reaching the age limit to hold his current position, Cadet de Gassicourt replaced him but the latter never received the title that Deyeux got in 1804 (Ramé, 1988).
Nicolas Deyeux was made member of the Legion of Honour. In 1820, he was elected member of the Academy of Medicine. During the Restauration, he kept his position as a teacher. On November 1822, he was destituted by the faculty following a student demonstration such as Desgenettes was. Louis-Philippe sent him back to his official seat on October 5, 1830, but as he was too old, Deyeux soon put an end to it (Chevallier, 1837 ; Ramé, 1988).
On April 25, 1837, he died in Passy.   

Bibliography :
Intervarsity Library (BIUM), personal communication, Paris, 2010.
Chevallier A., Bibliographical review on Nicolas Deyeux, Imp. De Loequin, Paris, 1837.
Coquillard Isabelle, « Personnality of two Empires : the medical longevity of Doctor Edme Joachim Bourdois de la Mothe », in Napoleonica, 2009/3, n°6, pp. 146-170.
Corlieu Auguste, Centenary of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris (1794-1894), Alcan – Baillère – Doin – Masson (ed.), Paris, 1896.
De Beauvillé Victor, History of Montdidier, Livre IV – Chapitre II – Section LIV,, 2010, pp. 1-21.
Fougère Paule, Great pharmacists, Buchet/Castel (ed.), Paris, 1956.
Gourdol Jean-Yves, « Jean-Nicolas Corvisart des Marets, Dricourt 1755 – Paris 1821, Napoleon’s first doctor », in, 2010, pp. 1-6., Physico-economical Library, 2010, p. 1., Nicolas Deyeux, 2010, p. 1.
Lemaire Jean-François, Napoleonian medicine, Nouveau Monde/Fondation Napoléon (ed.), Paris, 2003.
Ramé Henri, « Deyeux, Nicolas, (1745-1837), pharmacist », in Revue du Souvenir napoléonien [Review of the Napoleonian memory], August 1988, 360 : 31-32.
Rabusson Corvisart Didier, « Avis au lecteur » [« Foreword »], in Essai sur les maladies et les lésions organiques du cœur et des gros vaisseaux[Essay on the diseases and the organic lesions of the heart] by Corvisart J. N. (3rd edition of 1818), Pariente (ed.), Paris, 1988, pp. 7-41.
Riaud Xavier, « Antoine Augustin Parmentier (1737-1813), first pharmacist of the Great Army and a staunch advocate of the potato », in The International Napoleonic Society, Montreal, 2010,, pp. 1-3.

(*) Dental Surgeon, Doctor in Epistemology, History of Sciences and Techniques, Laureate and member of the National Academy of Dental Surgery.