SOUPIRAN, SIMON, barber-surgeon to the hospital and public of Quebec, senior churchwarden of Notre-Dame de Québec parish (c. 1716); b. 1670 in Saint-Michel parish, Saint-Sever, province of Gascony; son of Antoine Soupiran and Catherine Laborde; d. 9 Feb. 1724 in Quebec.
This royal notary’s son probably came to Canada as a ship’s surgeon. The witnesses to his marriage at Quebec on 26 Aug. 1700, acting in lieu of family, were all crew members of the Bien-Aimé, a vessel anchored off Quebec. Soupiran’s bride was Marthe Bélanger, a widow with five children who was to present him with five more. From 1700 to 1712, the couple lived in a rented house along Rue Cul-de-Sac, near the harbour of Quebec’s Lower Town.
Surgeons in New France like Soupiran were subject to the surveillance of the local representative of the king’s first barber-surgeon, who was replaced as supervisor in the early 18th century by the king’s physician at Quebec. Although surgery was officially elevated from manual trade to liberal art in 1699, the social distance between surgeons and physicians remained great. Surgeons, as an occupational group, had two singular advantages; they could not be physically punished for a patient’s death, and, after the church and apothecary, surgeons had a primary claim on the estate of a deceased debtor. Soupiran belonged to the second grade of surgeons, the barber-surgeons, who were trained by example and imitation as apprentices rather than as students at the royal college of surgery at Saint-Côme.
Soupiran is known to have transmitted his skills to at least four apprentices, including his eldest son. Their terms of apprenticeship were from two to four years, compared with two years in France. Canadian apprentices in surgery were, however, freed from the compulsory journeymanship of six years.
Soupiran’s barbershop customers were charged per visit if they did not wish to participate in his annual subscription plan. In 1714 a Quebec gentleman could be clean shaven all year round for an annual payment of ten livres. Soupiran tended to leave the barbershop in the care of his apprentices. When there were no candidates for the razor, he agreed to take his apprentices with him on house calls or on visits to the hospital to watch him bleed, purge, medicate, or operate on patients. People of that period needed a hardy constitution to survive their illnesses and the ministrations of the surgeons. One mature apprentice and assistant, Pierre Courreaud* de La Coste, was permitted to go to the hospital and to use his master’s surgical instruments four days of the week. In return for helping their master, the apprentices received training and varying degrees of maintenance: food was always provided, and sometimes clothes, laundry, and mending.
In the 18th century, Canadian surgeons gradually abandoned the auxiliary trades of barbering and wigmaking and came under closer regulation. Soupiran’s eldest son, Simon Soupiran* the younger (1704–1764), rose to become sworn surgeon of the admiralty of Quebec. He, in turn, trained his eldest son, Charles-Simon Soupiran (1728–1784), in surgery. Without a male heir after the third generation, this brief dynasty of Quebec surgeons died out.
[The reader will find a concise and easy-to-read account of medicine in France in the 17th century in W. H. Lewis, The splendid century: life in the France of Louis XIV (Garden City, N.Y., 1957). François Millepierres, La vie quotidienne des médecins au temps de Molière (Paris, 1964) and Marcel Marion, Dictionnaire des institutions de la France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1923), 92–93, should also be consulted, as should the articles on surgery and surgeons in Diderot’s Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (36v., Lausanne et Berne, 1778–81), VII, 769–73, 777–82. Abbott, History of medicine, and Arthur Vallée, Un biologiste canadien, Michel Sarrazin, 1659–1735, sa vie, ses travaux et son temps (Québec, 1927) are two good works on the history of medicine in New France. The APQ Rapports and the BRH contain notes by É.-Z. Massicotte, Raymond Douville, and other authors on certain aspects of the history of medicine. A complete modern study of this area is needed. p.n.m.]
AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 25 août, 1700, 9 juin 1703, 30 nov. 1706, 20 mars 1707, 11 mai 1716; Greffe de Pierre Rivet, 21 oct. 1715, 18 mai 1717; Registre d’état civil de Notre-Dame de Québec. ASQ, Paroisse de Québec, 118. “Un engagement d’apprentichirurgien en 1715,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 51. “Un engagement d’un apprenti chirurgien en 1717,” BRH, XXXII (1926), 541. Jug. et délib., IV, 1017; VI, 126, 468. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). “La famille Soupiran,” BRH, XLI (1935), 129–60.