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DUVAL, SALLUSTE (baptized Clarent-Salluste-Hermycle), physician, inventor, organist, professor, and engineer; b. 28 Feb. 1852 in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Lower Canada, son of Louis-Zéphirin Duval, a notary, and Éléonore Verreau; d. unmarried 23 July 1917 in Montreal and was buried 25 July in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.

Salluste Duval received the rudiments of education in his native village, partly from his mother, who was a former teacher and a sister of the educator Hospice-Anthelme-Jean-Baptiste Verreau*. He entered the Petit Séminaire de Québec on 22 Jan. 1864 but transferred at the end of September 1866 to the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse. Fascinated from early childhood by physics and mechanics – he spent hours taking watches apart and using the pieces for his own inventions – he was given permission at the latter school to work on the organ. In 1871, when he finished his classical studies, the Université Laval granted him a matriculation diploma.

Despite his interest in mechanics, Duval enrolled in medicine at Laval, following in the footsteps of his elder brother Arthur. His love of mathematics, however, led him to an interest in music and he quickly learned the fundamentals of music theory. From 1872 to 1874 he taught vocal and instrumental music at the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. In 1875 he studied at the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, which had also been known as the Victoria faculty of medicine since its affiliation in 1866 with Victoria College in Cobourg, Upper Canada [see Hector Peltier*]. On 11 May 1876 he was licensed to practise his profession.

Duval would spend little time in medical practice. He did, however, join with the professors of the School of Medicine, who broke ranks with their alma mater to found the faculty of medicine at the Montreal branch of the Université Laval. It was officially opened in January 1878 [see Thomas-Edmond d’Odet* d’Orsonnens; Édouard-Charles Fabre*]. He would be a tenured professor there from 1879–80 until his death, teaching, among other subjects, physiology, botany, and, at the Montreal General Hospital, clinical medicine related to children’s diseases. He was interested in photography and was one of the first to photograph human and animal bile.

Duval met the brothers Claver and Samuel Casavant, organ builders from Saint-Hyacinthe, in 1882 and they were to become fast friends. The acquaintance gave him an opportunity to learn something about the construction of organs, in which he soon developed an avid interest, and it proved the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. The Saint-Hyacinthe factory became almost a second home to him; in 1886–87 he visited it more than 50 times. Pursuing an idea originated by Joseph Casavant*, his friends’ father, he succeeded in making the stops and levers of an organ work effortlessly by means of an electromagnet. He also invented the free combination pedal, which is used to program the set of stops that the organist will use during a performance. This device, which the Casavant brothers patented under the name of Duval pedal, would be adopted by most American and European manufacturers. Duval first installed his system in the church of Saint-Jacques, Montreal, where he served as organist for nearly 40 years. Indeed, the interior of its organ had become a veritable workshop. When he was dismissed from his post in December 1914 following an altercation with the curé of the parish, he took his revenge by making the organ unworkable. All the skill of the specialists was required to decipher what he had so cleverly encoded.

In 1883, at the age of 31, Duval had been recruited by Émile Balète, principal of the École Polytechnique in Montreal, to teach chemistry and physics to students in the preparatory year, as well as general mechanics. Soon these courses were considered too elementary for his talents and Balète assigned applied mechanics to him. In 1887 Duval developed a course in electrotechnics, which he initially gave without charge because of his keen interest in the subject. He even secured permission from the Royal Electric Company in Montreal to take his students through their laboratories. When a wing for laboratories was added to the school in 1907, a new electricity laboratory was installed, but Duval, who after all was an amateur among a new generation of scientists, would find it difficult to adapt to the rigorous demands of modern science. He was granted tenure in 1909–10 and remained on the faculty of the École Polytechnique until his death in 1917.

Greatly interested in mathematics, Duval had obtained a bsc from Laval in 1887 and the following year he was appointed professor of mathematics and science at the École Normale Jacques-Cartier in Montreal, a position he would hold for more than 20 years. He also corresponded regularly with French scientists. In 1893 Laval granted him a diploma in civil engineering.

Because of his amazing ability to solve all kinds of problems, Salluste Duval was an almost legendary consultant and was much sought after. A shipping company was indebted to him for fixing a steamship that had been unable to get out of Montreal harbour. He made emergency repairs to the exchange of the Montreal Merchants’ Telephone Company. His reactions were unpredictable. In the first case, he charged a substantial fee for his services; in the second, he refused to accept remuneration, claiming he only wanted to prove that the telephone held no secrets for him. He was also responsible for installing the first set of electric stops in the organs of Notre-Dame church in Montreal. His students would remember him as a somewhat rustic, apparently disorganized professor, who would calmly erase the blackboard with his smock. Thoroughly original and versatile, Duval was recognized in his own day for his superior intelligence and his astonishing talent in all branches of science.

Danielle Ouellet

ANQ-Q, CE2-18, 28 févr. 1852. Arch. de l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, Service des arch., 999-305-58 (Léon Dion, Histoire de l’École polytechnique). Arch. de l’Univ. du Québec à Montréal, 2P (fonds de l’école normale Jacques-Cartier), dossier Famille Duval. L.-A. Bélisle, Références biographiques, Canada-Québec (5v., Montréal, 1978). Jeanne D’Aigle, L’histoire de Casavant frères, 1880–1980 (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., [1989]), 475–77, 494, 662–71. Édouard Desjardins et Gilles Janson, “Le docteur Salluste Duval,” L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal), 105 (1976): 258–69. [L.-]A. Desrosiers, Les écoles normales primaires de la province de Québec et leurs œuvres complémentaires; récit des fêtes jubilaires de l’école normale Jacques-Cartier, 1857–1907 (Montréal, 1909), 377, 380. École Polytechnique de Montréal, Annuaire, 1916/17. L’Enseignement primaire (Québec), 39 (1917–18): 56. Augustin Frigon, “Salluste Duval tel qu’on le connut à l’École polytechnique,” Rev. trimestrielle canadienne (Montréal), 32 (1946): 57. Robert Gagnon et A. J. Ross, Histoire de l’École polytechnique, 1873–1990; la montée des ingénieurs francophones (Montréal, 1991), 52, 62, 132, 169, 235, 237. Wilfrid Lebon, Histoire du collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (2v., Québec, 1948–49), 1: 326, 543–44. Gérard Ouellet, Ma paroisse: Saint-Jean-Port-Joli ([Québec, 1946]), 317–30. Univ. Laval, Annuaire, 1867/68: 15, 17; 1871/72: 31, 121; 1872/73: 19; 1888/89: 30.

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Danielle Ouellet, “DUVAL, SALLUSTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/duval_salluste_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/duval_salluste_14E.html
Author of Article:   Danielle Ouellet
Title of Article:   DUVAL, SALLUSTE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   June 22, 2024