François Fournier de Pescay is possibly the first European afro-descendant physician in Modern Era. He was officially born in Bordeaux, France (he was actually born on a ship between Haiti and France) in 1771 from Haitian plantation owners.
He studied medicine in Bordeaux, and in 1792 he enlisted in the French Revolutionary Army as surgeon. He left the army in 1799 after being for 4 years Chief adjutant surgeon of the Armée de Sambre-Meuse.
Fournier then settled in Brussels, Belgium, to become professor of internal pathologies and co-founder, and the first secretary-general, of the Société de Médecine de Bruxelles (Medical Society of Brussels).
In 1806, he was appointed surgeon-major in Napoleon’s Army, first in the Gendarmerie d’ordonance de la Garde Imperiale (a cavalry unit for aristocrats only), and from 1808 to 1813 at the Château de Valençay as personal doctor of the captive Prince of Asturias (future King of Spain Ferdinand VII).
François Fournier became later secretary of the Conseil de santé de l’armée (Army Health Council) and in 1816 was conferred the Légion d’Honneur -the highest French decoration- by King Louis XVIII in recognition of his military career.
In 1823, he left France for the newly independent Haiti where he became professor at the Académie d’Haiti and inspector-general of the government’s Health Services.
He came back to France in 1825 where he died in 1833.
François Fournier de Pescay published several medical research (among others on tuberculosis, tetanus and variola) and novels.
François Fournier de Pescay: the unheralded precursor of the modern black physician, Robert Fikes Jr, 1985
Fournier de Pescay (1771-1845), Claude Ribbe (Fr)
Image credit: courtesy of the Musée du Service de santé des armées, via (x)