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FRÉMONT, CHARLES-JACQUES, doctor, surgeon, and professor; b. 17 Oct. 1806 at Quebec, son of Charles-Pierre Frémont, a businessman, and Charlotte Voyer; m. 8 Jan. 1845, at Quebec, Cécile Panet, daughter of Judge Philippe Panet*, and they had eight children; d. 20 Dec. 1862 at sea.
Charles-Jacques Frémont began his education at the Séminaire de Québec, but had to interrupt it when his parents decided to move to Montreal. He completed his studies at an English school there, then started medical training under Dr John Stephenson, a founder of the Montreal Medical Institution in 1822. On 16 Nov. 1829 Frémont was licensed to practise medicine and surgery. He intended to carry on his profession at Saint-Thomas-de-Montmagny (Montmagny), but in the end settled at Pointe-Lévi (Lauzon, Lévis).
Some years later Dr Frémont left Pointe-Lévi for Quebec, where his practice grew steadily. Living in the capital made it possible for him to take a more active role in the medical life of Quebec. He was able to participate in the activities of the Société Médicale de Québec, giving lectures and taking part in discussions. In 1835 he stayed for a short time at the quarantine station on Grosse Île [see George Mellis Douglas].
In 1837 the governor general, Lord Gosford [Acheson*], a great admirer of Frémont, appointed him assistant to Dr James Douglas* at the Marine Hospital, then called the Marine and Emigrant Hospital. But Douglas, who considered Frémont much too young, refused to take him, claiming that he wished to work with a doctor as competent as himself. Dr Joseph Painchaud* was immediately appointed. Douglas, honouring professional ethics, insisted on informing Frémont of the reasons for his refusal; as a result of this encounter, the two became close friends. Douglas was indebted to Frémont over a number of years informally for his “success in surgical operations” but Frémont was his regular assistant only for a few months in 1847. Douglas described him in his diary as “an honest, an upright, and a high-minded gentleman, and with a thorough knowledge of his profession.” He added: “Had I been aware that on the appointment of the six visiting physicians [to help Douglas] I would have been deprived of the assistance of Dr. F., I would at once have placed my commission at His Excellency’s disposal.”
In 1845 Frémont helped set up the École de Médecine de Québec and from 1849 to 1852 he gave courses there in the theory and practice of surgery. In 1845 also he and doctors Joseph Morrin and James Douglas founded the Asile de Beauport; he and Douglas even underwrote the financial deficits of this undertaking. Frémont became director in 1849 and devoted himself unsparingly to it until his death.
In 1852 the authorities of the Université Laval invited Dr Frémont to become a professor in the new faculty of medicine, which opened in 1853. On 9 Sept. 1856 he agreed to replace the first dean of the faculty, Dr Jean Blanchet*, who had just died. For seven years he made the development of the faculty his first concern; in particular he organized its internal management, and established regulations concerning the anatomy and dissection room, the anatomical theatre, and the clinic – still in its early stages – at the Hôtel-Dieu. Indeed his first act was to improve working conditions both at the Hôtel-Dieu clinic and at that of the Marine and Emigrant Hospital which opened in 1857. In June 1858 he instituted a schedule of honoraria for the courses being offered at the faculty.
Under Frémont’s deanship the programme of studies was revised, improved, and completed. In December 1858 he instituted a course in clinical manipulation to be given by Dr François-Alexandre-Hubert La Rue*. Thanks to the dean, the latter also had the opportunity to learn how to handle a microscope, so that in 1862 the faculty offered its students a course in microscopic anatomy. In July 1860 Frémont obtained a grant for Dr Alfred Simard which allowed him to take a clinical course in Belgium. In addition, he provided for the development of the faculty library, had an ice room installed and the pathology museum finished, and increased the number of professors.
Charles-Jacques Frémont, widely known as a dedicated man, was for many years the doctor of the Quebec prison and visiting doctor to the Hôtel-Dieu, where “his kindness and attention were fully appreciated.” In 1860, in addition to his medical activities, he paid a visit to the pope as the delegate of Canadian Catholics. On that occasion Pius IX conferred upon him the title of Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great.
In October 1862 Frémont set off on a rest trip to Egypt accompanied by his wife. As his health was deteriorating, he decided to return, but died on 20 December on board the liner Bohemian en route to Portland, Maine. He was buried on 31 December at Quebec.
ANQ-Q, AP-G–85/3; État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 17 oct. 1806, 8 janv. 1845, 20 déc. 1862. [James Douglas], Journals and reminiscences of James Douglas, M.D., ed. James Douglas Jr (New York, 1910). Université Laval, Annuaire (Québec), 1852–53. M.-J. et George Ahem, Notes pour servir à l’ histoire de la médecine dans le Bas-Canada, depuis la fondation de Québec jusqu’au commencement du XIXe siècle (Québec, 1923), 235–39. Père Alexis [de Barbezieux], Histoire de Limoilou (Québec, 1921), 108, 111. C.-M. Boissonnault, Histoire de la faculté de médecine de Laval (Québec, 1953), 180–83. P.-B. Casgrain, Mémorial des familles Casgrain, Baby et Perrault du Canada (Québec, 1898). P.-G. Roy, La famille Frémont (Lévis, Qué., 1902), 29–34. C.-M. Boissonnault, “Création de deux écoles de médecine au Québec,” Laval médical (Québec), 39 (1968), 547–49.