BLANCHET, JEAN (baptized Jean-Baptiste), physician, surgeon, professor, militia officer, and politician; b. 17 May 1795 in Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Blanchet, a farmer, and Marie-Euphrosine Cloutier; d. 22 April 1857 at Quebec.
Little is known about Jean Blanchet’s childhood and the family setting in which he grew up except that his parents seem to have been quite prosperous farmers. He received his classical education at the Petit Séminaire de Quebec from 1810 to 1813. At the age of 17 he began to study medicine with his uncle, the celebrated Dr François Blanchet* of Quebec. Five years later, in 1818, he decided to go to Europe to finish his medical training. After several months in London he went to Paris to take the courses given by the famous surgeon and pathologist Guillaume Dupuytren at the Hôtel-Dieu and by Dominique-Jean Larrey at the Hôpital du Gros-Caillou. Returning to London he went to teaching sessions given by Astley Paston Cooper and Sir William Blizard. In 1820 he passed the examination set by the Royal College of Surgeons of London and obtained his certificate of fellowship as a qualified surgeon.
On his return to Quebec, Blanchet went into practice with his uncle and former mentor, François Blanchet. Their partnership lasted until 1823 when Jean Blanchet began to teach anatomy at the recently founded Emigrant Hospital (which merged with the Marine Hospital in 1834 to become the Marine and Emigrant Hospital). When François died in 1830 Jean inherited his practice and took up residence in his house on Rue du Palais, and it was not long before he became as famous as his uncle. Because of the sound surgical training he had received in Europe, he was also soon regarded as one of the most skilful obstetricians in the city. He had many patients and they came from all walks of life, according to François-Xavier Garneau*, who was one of them. His devotion to the underprivileged even earned him the nickname the “poor man’s doctor.”
Nor was it long before Blanchet acquired recognition among the members of his profession. For more than 15 years, between 1831 and 1848, he sat on the Medical Board of Examiners for the district of Quebec. He was an active member of the Quebec Medical Society, of which his uncle had been a founder, was its vice-president several times during the 1830s and 1840s, and also gave lectures before it. He was surgeon to Quebec’s 2nd Militia Battalion in 1845, and that year, as a zealous advocate of medical education in the province, he helped found the Quebec School of Medicine. Blanchet taught clinical surgery there from the time it opened in 1847 until it became affiliated with the Université Laval in 1852. He also gave clinical instruction at the Marine and Emigrant Hospital as a permanent visiting doctor, a post to which he was appointed on 27 Dec. 1847 and which he gave up in 1854 in order to run for election to the legislature.
In addition, that year, as a result of plans to open a faculty of medicine at the Université Laval, Blanchet accepted an offer made to him by the council of the Petit Séminaire de Quebec to become dean of the new faculty and to give courses in general pathology and physiology. The faculty was officially inaugurated in September 1854 and on that occasion he received from the university the honorary degree of doctor of medicine.
Blanchet was above all a doctor, but he also played a subsidiary role on the political stage. He had represented Quebec County from 22 Nov. 1834 to 27 March 1838, and during this difficult period he backed the majority in the assembly. In 1854 he was elected to represent Quebec City, and he supported the government of Augustin-Norbert Morin* and Sir Allan Napier MacNab* during the fifth parliament of the Province of Canada. However, a serious illness soon forced him to abandon his political duties almost entirely. On 16 March 1857 he finally handed in his resignation for reasons of health; five weeks later, on 22 April, he died.
Jean Blanchet never married. On his death he left his practice and part of his fortune to his nephew and former pupil, Hilarion Blanchet, with whom he had been in partnership since 1852.
ANQ-Q, CE1-22, 25 avril 1857; CE2-6, 17 mai 1795. ASQ, Polygraphie, XXXVI: li. F.-X. Garneau, Voyage en Angleterre et en France dans les années 1831, 1832 et 1833, Paul Wyczynski, édit. (Ottawa, 1968). Le Canadien, 23 oct. 1823. Le Journal de Québec, 28 sept. 1854. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians. Quebec directory, 1852. Cornell, Alignment of political groups. C.-M. Boissonnault, “Histoire de la faculté de médecine de Laval,” Laval medical (Québec), 17 (1952): 1108–19. “Le Docteur Jean Blanchet, premier doyen, 1795–1857 – 1853–1856,” Laval médical, 9 (1944): 460–62. J.-C. Taché, “Le Dr Jean Blanchet,” Journal de l’Instruction publique (Québec et Montréal), 1 (1857): 113–14.