BERTIER (Berthier), MICHEL, surgeon-major; b. 1695 in France, son of Antoine Bertier and Antoinette Cochon, both of Saumur (Anjou); d. 5 Sept. 1740 at Quebec.
Surgeon-major of Quebec and surgeon to the Hôtel-Dieu of that town, Michel Bertier often collaborated with Michel Sarrazin; in 1727 they were at the bedside of the second bishop of Quebec, Saint-Vallier [La Croix]. Thirteen years later Bertier was to assist another bishop on his death bed: François Pourroy de Lauberivière, stricken with typhus contracted while tending the typhus cases on the Rubis during an Atlantic crossing. Bishop Lauberivière’s death brought the wrath of Canon Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme upon Bertier. In a letter, the fiery and quarrelsome canon accused Bertier of having “in no small way contributed to hastening the death of our poor bishop by the brusque nature of his treatments: it was the all too frequent blood-lettings that brought about a stroke and then occasioned the death of our dear prelate. . . .” However, Bertier’s heroic death during this same epidemic disproves flatly the canon’s diagnosis. In fact it was while tending the typhus cases from the Rubis at the Hôtel-Dieu that Bertier, weakened by working night and day, contracted the terrible disease and succumbed on 5 Sept. 1740. He was buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Québec.
On 17 Sept. 1724 he had married Marie-Anne Denys, daughter of the provost marshal Paul Denys de Saint-Simon and Marie-Madeleine de Peiras. Only one of the seven children of this union survived their father.
In those far-off times, infectious diseases were rife in New France, and a close watch had to be kept on the ships coming up the St Lawrence. For this reason, about 1720 Michel Bégon* established what may be called a period of quarantine, and the first member of the profession responsible for the supervision and inspection of ships was Michel Bertier. Ten years later an epidemic of smallpox ravaged the colony and, according to the intendant, Gilles Hocquart*, affected more than 2,000 people, of whom a large proportion perished; Bertier again displayed an unsurpassed devotion to duty, as did also his confrères, Sarrazin and Joseph Benoist. Consequently Hocquart asked the king, on their behalf, for a small recognition “in consideration of the extraordinary service which they have given, with as much unselfishness as courage.”
AN, Col., C11A, 60. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec, le nécrologe de la crypte,” 209. Abbott, History of medicine, 27f., 30. Ahern, Notes pour l’histoire de la médecine, 49f. P.-G. Roy, “La quarantaine sous le régime français,” in Les petites choses de notre histoire (Lévis, 1919), I, 129–33. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France (1723–1773),” BRH, XIV (1908), 131.