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DESJARDINS, LOUIS-ÉDOUARD, professor, physician, composer, folklorist, and choir master; b. 10 Sept. 1837 in Terrebonne, Lower Canada, son of Édouard Desjardins, a bailiff, and Joséphine Panneton; m. 4 June 1867 in Montreal Zaïde Paré, daughter of merchant Hubert Paré*, and they had two sons and four daughters; d. there 2 March 1919 and was buried three days later in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

After pursuing classical studies at the Collège Masson in Terrebonne and the Philosophy program at the Séminaire de Nicolet in 1854–55, Louis-Édouard Desjardins took the first steps leading to the priesthood and he joined the seminary’s teaching staff. From 1856 to 1858 he taught the commercial course and music, and from 1858 to 1860 music only. He then left the ecclesiastical life and in 1861 enrolled in the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery. Three years later he graduated as a medical doctor. In 1870 and 1872 Desjardins spent some time in Europe, where he specialized in ophthalmology. At that time European medicine was a magnet for physicians who wanted to acquire a specialty. He attended the clinics of ophthalmologists William Bowman and George Critchett at Moorfield’s Ophthalmic Hospital in London, and those of physicians Louis de Wecker, Jules Sichel, and Édouard Meyer in Paris. While in London, he took part in the International Congress of Ophthalmology held early in August 1872.

Back in Montreal in 1873, Desjardins became one of the pioneers of ophthalmology in the province of Quebec. He set up the first dispensary for the treatment of eye diseases at the Asile Nazareth in Montreal, where needy patients were helped without charge. It would become the Institut Ophtalmique de Montréal in 1875. That year he arranged with the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery for a clinical course in ophthalmology to be offered at his dispensary. The creation of such a course, and the work Desjardins directed from 1877 to 1891 as “surgeon and oculist” at the Hôtel-Dieu, laid the groundwork for the process of medical specialization in Canada.

Eager to promote French Canadian medical practice and to publicize his colleagues’ practical experiments and clinical work, Desjardins had helped organize the Société Médicale de Montréal in 1871. The next year he assisted in founding the most important French-language medical journal in North America, L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal). He would also be involved in launching La Gazette médicale de Montréal in 1887, as well as the Montreal dailies L’Étendard in 1883 and Le Devoir in 1910.

A tenured professor at the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery from 1877 to 1891, Desjardins played a major role during the 1880s in championing its interests against repeated attacks by the authorities of the Université Laval, who wanted to incorporate it into the university’s Montreal campus [see Thomas-Edmond d’Odet* d’Orsonnens]. He had to become its defender in high places after Archbishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau* of Quebec pronounced an anathema against it on 25 June 1883, an anathema that was read out in the churches and that released the community of nuns at the Hôtel-Dieu – where the school’s physicians were on staff – from any obligation towards the institution, forbade Roman Catholics to attend it, and denied the sacraments to its professors and students. For all practical purposes it was condemned. However, through the good offices of Desjardins, who went to Rome in the summer, the anathema was withdrawn on 25 August, and from then on the Holy See tolerated the school’s existence. Desjardins later participated in the negotiations that led in 1891 to its merger with the faculty of medicine of the Université Laval in Montreal, where he would continue to teach until 1918.

In 1891 Desjardins set up a new private clinic in ophthalmology and otology on Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, which was again named the Institut Ophtalmique de Montréal. Here he carried on his practice with two other doctors, his brother Henri Desjardins and Rodolphe Boutet. In 1894 the clinic also began treating all ear, nose, and throat ailments. In 1900 Desjardins was made a member of the Société Française d’Ophtalmologie and in 1904 he chaired the opening session of the tenth International Congress of Ophthalmology, held in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Burdened by many time-consuming professional duties, Desjardins had had to give up his musical activities. He had founded the Harmonie Sainte-Cécile, the first band at the Séminaire de Nicolet, during the four years he taught singing and instrumental music there. About 1865 he had been appointed choir master at the Montreal cathedral, but he had been unable to retain this position for long. Late in the century, however, Desjardins resumed his professional musical career. In 1895 he directed the comic opera L’Amour médecin, by Ferdinand Poise. A composer and folklorist, he arranged about a hundred Canadian songs. His Chansons populaires du Canada, published under the pseudonym Bon Vieux Temps, were performed at the congress on the French language held at Quebec in 1912. He composed a Messe de minuit based on Christmas melodies which was printed in Montreal in 1902, as well as a few motets published around 1917, and other choral works.

Denis Goulet

ANQ-M, CE1-1, 4 juin 1867; CE6-24, 12 sept. 1837. Arch. de l’Univ. de Montréal, P 153 (École de médecine et de chirurgie de Montréal), procès-verbaux. Le Devoir, 3 mars 1919: 1–2. La Presse, 3 mars 1919. An annotated bibliography of Canadian medical periodicals, 1826–1975, comp. C. G. Roland and Paul Potter ([Hamilton, Ont.], 1979). Jacques Bernier, La médecine au Québec: naissance et évolution d’une profession (Québec, 1989). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898). Canadian who’s who (1910). Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), 2: 115–16. Dictionnaire biographique de musiciens et un vocabulaire de termes musicaux (Lachine, Qué., 1922), 75. J.-A.–I. Douville, Histoire du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1803–1903 . . . (2v., Montréal, 1903), 53–60, 184–85. Encyclopedia of music in Canada (Kallmann et al.). État général des fonds et collections conservés aux Archives du séminaire de Nicolet, Marie Pelletier et al., compil. (Nicolet, Qué., 1990), 326–27 (description of the Fonds L.-É. Desjardins, F241). Denis Goulet et al., Histoire de l’hôpital Notre-Dame de Montréal, 1880–1980 (Montréal, 1993). Denis Goulet et André Paradis, Trois siècles d’histoire médicale au Québec; chronologie des institutions et des pratiques (1639–1939) (Montréal, 1992). Albert LeSage, “75e anniversaire de la fondation de ‘L’Union médicale du Canada,’ 1872–1947,” L’Union médicale du Canada (Montréal), 75 (1946): 1272–73. Claude Lessard, Le séminaire de Nicolet, 1803–1969 (Trois-Rivières, Qué., 1980). L.-D. Mignault, “Nécrologie: le professeur Desjardins; quelques notes sur sa vie,” L’Union médicale du Canada, 48 (1919): 203–5. Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, Annuaire, 1864–1918. Recension bibliographique: les maladies infectieuses dans les périodiques médicaux québécois du XIXe siècle, André Paradis et al., compil. (Trois-Rivières, 1988).

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Denis Goulet, “DESJARDINS, LOUIS-ÉDOUARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/desjardins_louis_edouard_14E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/desjardins_louis_edouard_14E.html
Author of Article:   Denis Goulet
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 23, 2024