ROUSSEAU, ARTHUR (baptized Jean-Marie-Arthur), physician, bacteriologist, teacher, and school administrator; b. 19 Aug. 1871 in Saint-Casimir, Que., son of Louis-Télesphore-Eugène Rousseau, a physician, and Alvina Alain; m. probably 8 Jan. 1899 Bernadette Landry, daughter of Senator Philippe Landry* in Quebec City, and they had four sons and two daughters; d. there 13 Jan. 1934 and was buried three days later in Notre-Dame de Belmont cemetery, in Sainte-Foy (Quebec City).
Following classical studies at the Séminaire de Nicolet (1883–85) and the Petit Séminaire de Québec (1885–91), Arthur Rousseau, who was a brilliant student, enrolled in the medical program at the Université Laval in Quebec City in 1891. He was awarded the Prix Morrin at the end of each year of his undergraduate studies, which he completed in 1893. He received his md magna cum laude in 1895. Likely supported by the university, he left for Paris on 18 February of that year to further his education. He devoted his mornings to internal medicine training sessions in hospitals, where he acquired additional knowledge with several specialists. In the afternoon he audited bacteriology courses at the Institut Pasteur. With Oscar-Félix Mercier* and Arthur Bernier*, Rousseau was one of the first Canadian students to take the course on microbe research techniques given in the institute’s laboratories from 1894 by the physicians Émile Roux and Ilia Ilitch (Élie) Metchnikov (Metchnikoff), who would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1908. The lectures covered a range of theoretical and practical rules pertaining to rigorous bacteriological processes. In particular, Rousseau was introduced to germ theory as opposed to the doctrine of spontaneous generation; to microbial classification, morphology, and activity; to gelatin cultures; to the examination, staining, and separation of microbes; and to the sterilization of organic infusions. In addition to these subjects there was instruction in techniques used for the microbial analysis of air, water, and soil; methods for culturing anaerobic microorganisms; experimental inoculations; the investigation of bacilli in living animals or through autopsies of infected animals; and a series of lessons on the bacteriological characteristics and propagation modes of the major infectious diseases, such as anthrax, rabies, pneumonia, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, cholera, diphtheria, and tetanus. The lectures, extracts of which he was to publish in Quebec City’s Revue médicale in 1897–98, would mark a turning point in Rousseau’s career. To support himself, he practised medicine in Fontainebleau, finally returning to Quebec in 1897, the year he was admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec.
Appointed associate professor in the faculty of medicine at the Université Laval in Quebec City on 8 Sept. 1897, Rousseau became the director of the bacteriology laboratory a year later. He developed the first courses in applied bacteriology and medical chemistry. He became a full professor on 12 June 1901 and also took up practising and teaching general and internal pathology at the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec City.
At the beginning of his busy career Rousseau worked to bring about a renewed emphasis on preventive medicine, which, as in France, had to rely on scientific methods of screening for infectious diseases and to reinforce preventive measures. His teaching was not limited to the medical degree program: in 1914 he agreed to replace Dr Michael Joseph Ahern* as course instructor at the École des Infirmières de l’Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec City. For 14 years Rousseau was to be its only accredited professor.
Rousseau vigorously promoted prophylactic methods, which were little developed at the time, and pioneered laboratory medicine in Canada. He played a large role in putting new practices linked to medical bacteriology on a firm footing in the faculty of medicine at the Université Laval and at the Hôtel-Dieu and the other hospitals in Quebec City. His efforts would result in a strengthening of health campaigns, both public and private. In this respect the fight against tuberculosis would be an important part of his career. In 1909 his expertise in bacteriology and phthisiology singled him out to become a member of the royal commission on tuberculosis, a disease that then had a very high incidence in the province of Quebec. According to the reports of the Board of Health of the Province of Quebec, between 1896 and 1906 tuberculosis was the cause of at least 33,000 deaths there. Between 1908 and 1910 Rousseau published a few articles in L’Union médicale du Canada on the quite widely held contemporary theory of a possible gradual degeneration of the French Canadian race brought on by infectious diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis. His position on the fight against tuberculosis – notably with regard to contagion in working-class families and the marriage ban for tuberculosis sufferers and the mentally ill – bore traces of eugenics, which bring to mind certain views held by Sir Francis Galton. In the last quarter of the 19th century Galton had founded, in England, the science of eugenics [see Robert Ramsay Wright; Madge Thurlow*], a movement that proposed banning reproduction by the unfit. In espousing this view, Rousseau was advocating a birth policy very different from the one advanced by the Roman Catholic Church, but which did not prevent him from maintaining a good relationship with the clergy and religious communities. Yet he soon abandoned this kind of social debate to devote himself to more pragmatic and useful medical tasks. His plan to intervene systematically in the private lives of working-class people was only one facet of the campaign against tuberculosis, a fight he also wished to take into schools, workplaces, and public areas. He was actively involved in the struggle, and took part as well in the creation of the Ligue Antituberculeuse de Québec in 1909 and its incorporation in 1910. He would become president of the Canadian Tuberculosis Association in 1925.
Rousseau, who was well aware that it would be difficult to check the spread of tuberculosis if the city did not have specialized sanitariums, founded in 1912 the Société de Patronage de l’Hôpital des Tuberculeux de Québec, whose president was the businessman and legislative councillor Georges-Élie Amyot*. The association succeeded in collecting the necessary funds to welcome the first patients to the former Hôpital Civique in Quebec City on 15 Nov. 1915. The location was temporary, for Rousseau wanted a sanitarium to be built in a place where clean air and the scenery would be conducive to rest and relaxation. A plot of land was acquired in Sainte-Foy, where construction of a hospital for tubercular patients began in 1916 and was completed two years later. Rousseau had been correct: the Hôpital Laval, which opened on 6 June 1918 with 120 beds, could no longer keep up with demand from 1920 onwards. A new wing was built, which doubled the number of beds. Recognized for its modern, high-quality care, the hospital soon had to undergo further expansion. In 1930 two new wings were erected – the Pavillon Notre-Dame and the Pavillon Rousseau – which brought the hospital’s admissions capacity to 450.
In 1921 Rousseau became the first dean of the faculty of medicine elected on the basis of merit rather than seniority. Holding the position until his death in 1934, he applied himself energetically to modernizing student education by consolidating instruction in medical sciences and expanding clinical training through the inclusion of specialties such as dermatology and cardiology. Under his guidance the faculty of medicine experienced unprecedented growth: a new wing devoted to medicine was inaugurated (1924), the biology and histology laboratories were updated (1925–26), the Institut d’Anatomie Pathologique was founded (1928) [see Arthur Vallée], the Institut de Bactériologie et d’Hygiène Alimentaire was launched (1930), the Centre Anticancéreux was opened (1931), the Société Médicale des Hôpitaux Universitaires de Québec was founded (1931), subscriptions to international journals were purchased, and, lastly, clinical research, then in an embryonic state, was developed. In the same vein, Rousseau recommended that medical councils be set up in Quebec City’s teaching hospitals, a measure that, in his view, would enable the quality of scientific medicine practised in those institutions to be substantially improved. He received the support of physicians Albert Marois and Napoléon-Arthur Dussault. Together they secured the formation, in 1925, of the medical board – the precursor to the medical council – of the city’s Hôtel-Dieu, with Rousseau presiding as chair. The initiative would be taken up the next year by the Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange in Beauport (Quebec City). As dean, Rousseau also strongly encouraged the recruitment of new teachers and the welcoming of physicians from France, who were invited to raise the standards of instruction and to open the faculty of medicine to research. His restructuring efforts were fruitful to the extent that the American Medical Association, which evaluated medical faculties in the United States and Canada, recognized the quality of the advances made at the faculty of the Université Laval and gave it an A rating at the beginning of the 1929–30 academic year.
During his time as dean, Rousseau was very active in hospital circles and helped to improve the specialist care offered to the population in and around Quebec City. In these years, when the Hôtel-Dieu became unable to respond to the clinical-training needs of the students, who, since the opening of the new medical wing, were arriving in greater numbers, his initiatives were timely. Rousseau envisaged the construction of a large university hospital, which would offer general and specialized care and accept patients who could pay for their treatment as well as those who could not. The institution would also provide clinical teaching and include a nursing school affiliated with the Université Laval. In this venture Rousseau was able to count on the active collaboration of Dr Pierre-Calixte Dagneau. The provincial government and the archdiocese gave their financial support, which was granted partly because the Hôtel-Dieu no longer met the demand for care of the population of the Quebec City region. The cornerstone of the Hôpital du Saint-Sacrement was laid in September 1924. Opened on 15 Dec. 1927, it was affiliated with the faculty of medicine of the Université Laval and was initially administered by the Sisters of the Hôtel-Dieu (the Augustines de la Miséricorde de Jésus, or Augustinian nuns), and then by the Sœurs de la Charité de Québec, who had agreed to take over the responsibility the preceding June.
After receiving the assent of the rector of the Université Laval, Abbé Camille Roy*, Rousseau made another significant contribution by setting up the Clinique Roy-Rousseau, named in honour of the two founders. The steps taken by Rousseau were originally designed to relieve the overcrowding at the Hôpital Saint-Michel-Archange. The task of the clinic, inaugurated on 1 July 1926, eventually shifted to screening and treating neurological conditions and mental illnesses. Organized along the same lines as the Hôpital Sainte-Anne in Paris, the 200-bed facility was associated with the Université Laval and included a teaching centre in neuropsychiatry for medical students and nurses. In short, during his time as dean, Rousseau made a major contribution, especially with regard to the expansion of the institutions affiliated with the faculty and to the development of specialized care, then a field in which there was rapid growth.
Over the course of his career Dr Rousseau accumulated distinctions and honorary offices, which testified to his international renown in the sphere of medicine. After co-founding the Association des Médecins de Langue Française de l’Amérique du Nord [see Michel-Delphis Brochu] in 1902, he would be its president from 1913 to 1920. He was notably the official Canadian delegate to the International Congress on Tuberculosis in Washington (1908), and in Rome (1912), as well as at the centenaries of the birth of Louis Pasteur held in Paris and Strasbourg (1922) and of the death of René Laennec (1926). In 1927 he was the first Canadian elected a corresponding member of France’s Académie Royale de Médecine and was named an officer of the Legion of Honour. He was also the first Canadian to be elected a member of the Institut Pasteur.
Like most members of the francophone elite of Quebec’s medical profession, Dr Rousseau was a committed francophile and never missed an opportunity to respond to an invitation from France or to encourage visits from its delegations or physicians. In 1924 Rousseau welcomed Professor Émile Sergent who, at the invitation of the government of the province of Quebec, gave a series of clinical lectures at the faculty entitled “La tuberculose et la mortalité infantile” [Tuberculosis and infant mortality]. The two men immediately struck up a friendship. In 1927, as part of an exchange sponsored by the Institut Scientifique Franco-Canadien, Rousseau invited Sergent to teach courses at the faculty of medicine of the Université Laval, and in 1931 he persuaded the provincial government to defray most of the expenses incurred by the undertaking. When in 1925 Rousseau was informed of the visit of a medical delegation from Latin America headed by the French physician Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, known as Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who was the general secretary of the League of Nations Health Organization, he was quick to ask its members, on behalf of the faculty, to a dinner at the Garrison Club of Quebec.
Arthur Rousseau’s numerous initiatives in hospital and university circles, as well as his openness to medicine based on scientific principles, made him a great pioneer and a respected and much-appreciated citizen among his colleagues and friends. It appears that he took little interest in broad social and economic movements other than those that were of particular concern to the faculty of medicine at the Université Laval and the hospitals in Quebec City. Nevertheless, in 1921 he reacted favourably to the passage of the Quebec Public Charities Act by the government of Louis-Alexandre Taschereau*. Shortly after the publication on 15 May 1931 of Quadragesimo anno, Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on reconstructing the social order, and against the backdrop of the Great Depression, Rousseau published a letter criticizing the excesses of capitalism, which drew attention. Three years later, when his death, hastened by pneumonia, was announced, messages of sympathy poured in from all over the world, and his funeral attracted all of Quebec City’s eminent political, clerical, and professional figures. In 1984 a street near the Hôpital Laval (which in 2008 would become the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute) was named in his honour.
Denis Goulet and Jérôme Boivin
Arthur Rousseau wrote a number of brochures, including La tuberculose dans la province de Québec: étiologie – prophylaxie: rapport fait au congrès des Trois-Rivières, le 26 juin 1906 ([Québec?], 1906). He is also the author of several articles, among them “Virulence et Immunité,” La Rev. médicale (Québec), 1 (1897–98): 185–86, 193–94. His contributions to L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal) include “Les progrès de la médecine moderne,” 33 (1904): 409–11; “La médecine et la race,” 37 (1908): 497–503; and “La lutte contre la tuberculose est aussi pour l’homme une sauvegarde contre la dégénérescence,” 39 (1910): 382–92.
Arch. de l’Instit. Pasteur (Paris), Cours de microbie technique, MP 29048 (liste des personnes ayant suivi les cours, 1889–1970). BANQ-Q, CE 301-S38, 21 août 1871; CE 301-S97, 17 juill. 1867; CN 301-S410, 8 janv. 1899. FD, Saint-Cœur-de-Marie (Québec), 16 janv. 1934. Univ. Laval, Div. des arch. (Québec), U506 (Bureau du secrétaire général), 24/4 (reg. des règlements et des nominations du conseil universitaire); 36/4 (anciens élèves). L’Action catholique (Québec), 15, 16 janv. 1934. Le Devoir, 15, 17, 22 janv. 1934. La Presse, 15, 16 janv. 1934. Le Soleil, 15, 16, 20, 22 janv. 1934. “Banquet offert au Dr. Rousseau,” Le Bull. médical de Québec, 28 (1927): 83–87. C.‑M. Boissonnault, Histoire de la faculté de médecine de Laval (Québec, 1953). Canadian who’s who, 1936/37. College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Prov. of Quebec, Medical reg. (Montreal), 1897; 1911. Louise Côté, En garde!: les représentations de la tuberculose au Québec dans la première moitié du XXe siècle (Sainte-Foy [Québec], 2000). Marc Desmeules et Louis Larochelle, “La faculté de médecine de l’université Laval et la médecine à Québec: quelques notes historiques,” M/S: médecine sciences (Paris), 19 (2003): 1025–29. Joseph Gauvreau, Sur la tombe d’un grand médecin, le docteur Arthur Rousseau (1871–1934) (Montréal, [1934?]). Denis Goulet et Othmar Keel, “Les hommes-relais de la bactériologie en territoire québécois et l’introduction de nouvelles pratiques diagnostiques et thérapeutiques (1890–1920),” RHAF, 46 (1992–93): 417–42. Denis Goulet et André Paradis, Trois siècles d’histoire médicale au Québec: chronologie des institutions et des pratiques (1639–1939) (Montréal, 1992). Jean Hamelin, Histoire de l’université Laval: les péripéties d’une idée (Sainte-Foy, 1995). J. B. L., “M. le docteur Arthur Rousseau,” Le Bull. médical de Québec, 28 (1927): 65–66. Laval, “Chronique de l’université,” Le Canada français (Québec), 2e sér., 14 (1926–27): 281–91. Albert Le Sage, “In memoriam: le professeur Arthur Rousseau (1871–1934),” L’Union médicale du Canada, 63 (1934): 115–26. O.‑D. Messier, “Arthur Rousseau: le bâtisseur,” Cap-aux-Diamants (Québec), 1989, special number entitled L’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec: 39–40. François Rousseau, La croix et le scalpel: histoire des Augustines de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (1639–1989) (2v., Sillery [Québec], 1989–94), 2. Émile Sergent, “Ma troisième mission d’enseignement clinique au Canada français,” Bull. de l’Académie de médecine (Paris), 3e sér., 106 (1931): 639–47; “Notice nécrologique sur M. Arthur Rousseau (de Québec), correspondant étranger (1871–1934),” Bull. de l’Académie de médecine, 3e sér., 111 (1934): 119–23. Univ. Laval, Annuaire, 1886–1934.
© 2019–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
Denis Goulet and Jérôme Boivin, “ROUSSEAU, ARTHUR (baptized Jean-Marie-Arthur),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 31, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rousseau_arthur_16E.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:
|Author of Article:||Denis Goulet and Jérôme Boivin|
|Title of Article:||ROUSSEAU, ARTHUR (baptized Jean-Marie-Arthur)|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||2019|
|Year of revision:||2019|
|Access Date:||March 31, 2023|